“Follow Me” (2020)
Running time: 88 minutes
Written and directed by: Will Wernick
Featuring: Holland Roden, Keegan Allen, Pasha Lychnikoff, Denzel Whitaker and George Janko
Alexei: [addressing the group before they enter the escape room] “Ok, now remember, as real as everything might seem, you’re safe.”
Recently released on DVD and Blu-ray is the social media based horror “Follow Me” (2020) that even though the world is in a pandemic managed to receive a small theatrical released, making little waves anywhere which is down to the quality of production as well the complete unoriginality of this entry into the horror genre. Not only is this a trope laden horror movie that has been done many times in the past few years, but it dresses itself up as some kind of millennial socially justified horror movie but with little scope and transplanting the location to some Eastern Europe locale it comes off as some kind of “Hostel” (2005) rip off with no originality with actors that are not really up to a major release as well a writer/director whose talent does not match his ambition.
I have made the point before but the past ten years has been a bonanza for genre movies, especially horror, not only does there seem to be more being produced than ever before, especially with the advent of cheap film making equipment, more quality filmmakers entering the genre as well as more production companies realising there is money to be made, especially with the increase in online streaming services. This is where Jason Blum and his Blumhouse production company has entered the market finding a cost/revenue model that works for them, partnering with a major distribution partner in Universal and not limiting itself to theatrical projects, but also partnering with Netflix. What this means of course is that there are literally a whole heap of other filmmakers who believe they could copy the model of low budget/high returns, but of course what Blumhouse has done is to, on the most part, create some original content, this is where the copycats have failed by producing some fairly ordinary genre content. This is exactly where “Follow Me” falls, maybe fifteen years ago it may have been considered interesting but in 2020 it feels like a C grade effort at best.
“Follow Me” is based around the celebration of the ten year anniversary of content creation within his successful vlog #ESCAPEREALLIFE, social media personality Cole Turner flies to Moscow with his girlfriend Erin, best friend Thomas and their friends Dash and Sam. In Russia, Dash introduces his wealthy playboy friend Alexei Koslov who promises he has arranged a personalized escape room experience guaranteed to terrify Cole. I am not even going to go into the rest of the plot of this movie, it is standard stuff with very little in the way of surprise, but if you have never seen a horror built around social media, torture porn or others of its ilk then it may surprise, other than that it is trope laden and run of the mill.
One of the larger issues within this film are its cast of characters as well as the actors cast to portray them. For a movie like this to work, you need to care about the characters or at least some of them, and that is simply not the case. I didn’t care about Cole and his need always to get that #Content, his whole character is summed up in the fact that after his girlfriend was almost dragged away by some thugs, he was more interested in if there was any footage. Dash is just as bad, and the rest of the characters have so little development; it is a case of why bother. Because of this lack of character, I found the rest of the film honestly quite dull instead of tense as the film hopes.
“Follow Me” does attempt to deal with some very large issues but because of the nature of the movie as well as the budget these are not very well examined at all which is a huge loss as genre films are the best way to analyse any kind of social commentary in a meaningful way. This is not a particularly original movie, which is all this movie could have going for it especially as a genre movie. For genre movies, any genre at all to succeed there needs to be a few elements present, of course it has to take place within an established genre which this does, but then it has to subvert those genre expectations to provide an audience with something new. Given the expectations of today’s audiences this new element doesn’t even need to be smart or too deep in any way, so it is saying something that “Follow Me” really has nothing to offer except for some onscreen violence which again is not too original in its execution, think maybe “Hostel III” (2011), that is not a good thing to compare it to.
Is there a reason to watch this movie? Well thats a hard question to answer but put simply of you have no real experience of the horror genre then there might be something here for you. However, if as an audience member you have a love for the horror genre then I would give this a miss, unless it is streaming and you are curious.