Followers hits cinemas across the UK on 18th March, 2022.
Jonty, a failing influencer with an ambition to reach over a million followers, will stop at nothing to become famous. A new start at University brings with it hopes of a resurgence in his popularity when a demonic presence appears in his student house. Jonty decides to stream his and his housemates experiences with this supernatural entity to gain the fame and fortune he’s most been craving. But at what cost?
Take a pinch of classic found footage, a dash of successful comedies like Willy’s Wonderland and you’ve got writer-director Marcus Harben’s Followers. The film is Harben’s first – and sadly only – film, releasing in UK cinemas a year after his life was cut cruelly short by cancer.
Speaking before his death, Harben perfectly described the film as a “twisty, turny, spooky, darkly amusing little supernatural horror movie.” No better description of the film could be conceived of as Followers is a uniquely-twisted look at contemporary cyber-culture.
Harry Jarvis takes centre stage as Jonty, a wannabe influencer who will seemingly stop at nothing in order to grab internet fame. In the beginning he’s mocked and belittled by his peers for his childish antics. Jarvis injects a healthy does of ego and laddish-behaviour in to Jonty. His impossibly perfect looks giving him a free pass to behave as idiotically as he wants in his search for fame.
Getting a second chance by going to university, Jonty – via one of his many cameras – introduces us to his new housemates: Zauna (Loreece Harrison), Amber (Erin Austen) and Pete (Daniel Cahill). They’re watched over by student support counsellor Becky Dubar (Nina Wadia), who also happens to crave internet fame.
Followers starts out like any other found-footage horror. A quick introduction to our characters and things soon begin to turn. Drawers open by themselves. Strange noises begin inhabiting their student house. It’s all textbook horror. But Followers soon pivots to lean heavily on its satirical edge. Jonty’s cravings for internet fame push the group to explore their supernatural surroundings more and more, all in the name of clicks and views.
Harben’s cleverly underpins supernatural events in the film with a dash if scepticism. As Jonty manipulates his new friends to his own gain, the audience begins to question if he isn’t masterminding all of the strange events to artificially inflate his viewership. That scepticism lasts through much of the film, keeping the viewer guessing until the last possible minute.
Followers doesn’t simply scare its audience in to submission. Instead it builds on expectations to subvert the genre and create a sense of foreboding terror. The sense of what might come next is where the fear comes from in much of the first and second act. Revelations in act three are when the film pushes itself in to more classic horror territory.
With the found footage nature of the story, the film relies heavily on a mix of camera equipment to vary its visual style. Jonty and Zauna both being film enthusiasts means a broad range of equipment is used across the film allowing for a mix of aspect ratios and quality. It adds enough variation to keep the viewer engaged without missing the traditional style of storytelling.
Visual effects are minimal and well utilised with much of the film option for classic practical effects instead. The practical nature of moving objects and traditional haunting gives the film a level of authenticity which is sometimes lacking in more modern films. Harben certainly utilised the best of both worlds.
Followers is a suspenseful and tense horror which pulls from the best aspects of satire with darkly comedic results.