E.L. King says Sylvia Caminer's Follow Her brings a clever, fresh and frightening perspective to the "social media is bad" trope.
The toxicity of social media, a need to be in the spotlight, and the desire to be followed have been a little "done-to-death," but Follow Her leads us down a familiar path before subverting our expectations. The narrative is more complex than its scrutiny of social media and the casual voyeurism that we've normalized as a society. Sylvia Caminer in her feature-length directorial debut and writer Dani Barker bring a clever, fresh and frightening perspective to the "social media is bad" trope, with some interesting albeit cringe-worthy turns. The film takes the somewhat meta route of Scream (1996), and the story offers enough surprises to keep audiences intrigued.
Jess Peters (Barker) is a privileged young and blond aspiring actress and social media influencer with a habit of responding to classified ads to film unsuspecting clients. She's smart and aware of the danger these unknown scenarios present, but she'll go to any length to create content for followers and views on her channel 'Classified Crazies' on a platform called The Hive. She's never without her phone in hand, live streaming every facet of her meticulously manufactured online presence. To make a living between casting calls while living in her father's loft apartment, she uses hidden cameras to create videos of herself performing services with male clients for money—one tickling fetish at a time. Ever the feminist anti-hero, she answers the questionable ads for models, actresses, and the like, promoting her channel under the guise of exposing bad men.
When another influencer promotes her latest video and it goes viral, for a brief moment, she's fulfilled, elated at the increase in her online fame. However, a problem is quickly identified in the comments for her latest video. The technology used to provide her clients with anonymity fails and her latest "victim" appears unpixellated, identity revealed. Jess is faced with a dilemma—delete the video to protect the client or take the self-serving route and leave it up to boost her online status. Her choice comes as no surprise to audiences and begs the question, who's the true villain of the story?
After responding to an ad for a screenwriter, she finds herself trapped in a barn fashioned like a film set with Tom Brady (Luke Cook), who's acting out an elaborate revenge fantasy film in which Jess is playing the starring role. An unlikable protagonist, Jess is easy to root for and against while she blunders from one bad decision to another. She's both arrogant and incredibly self-conscious, revealing small facets of the real Jess living beneath her online confident and effortlessly cool persona. As the power dynamics shift between Tom and Jess, he ultimately strips her literally and figuratively of her status, which for an aspiring social influencer is their source of dominion. At her most vulnerable, she's left with a choice, not dissimilar to the one she faced before.
Barker and Cook deliver authentically and at times humorous performances, playing off each in a quick-witted game of cat and mouse and verbal jousting. Cook is a demented master of the maniacal and brilliantly charming as Tom. Barker's portrayal of Jess evokes both empathy and ire for the character, leaving us with conflicting desires about her fate. Follow Her is thoroughly entertaining, engaging, and more revenge horror than psycho-sexual thriller. Caminer achieves a thought-provoking, scary and delightful experience with her excellent direction, leaving us to ponder how far one will go for infamy and the societal and self-imposed boundaries of our own morality.
Follow Her screened at the Popcorn Frights Film Festival on August 11-22, 2022.