Still, the darkest thing about “Followed” isn’t the movie’s grasping, and mostly underwhelming horror scenes, but rather Mike’s deathless drive to earn a $250,000 sponsorship from a Hot Topic-like boutique called “Haute Gothic.” Mike thinks that everything but money and status are meaningless, because he’s a caricature of a straight white 20-something. He’s so desensitized that he wonders aloud if he could pay a black guy $50 to do a back flip. Mike’s also the kind of character who, when he interviews a relatively serious true crime expert (John Savage) about the Hotel Lennox, can’t help but mug for the camera with snarky nonsense like “A devil worshipper, how cliche” and “Follow Satan, you will.” Kids these days, always with the Yoda jokes.
Mike’s comeuppance is inevitable, especially given the many scenes where he’s contrasted with Chris (Tim Drier), his appropriately meek lapsed Catholic cameraman. And, to be fair: the Hotel Lennox’s undead residents are somehow even more underwhelming given how much more effective the movie’s unsettling pregnant pauses are compared with its underwhelming jump scare climaxess.
So “Followed” isn’t a good social media critique, nor is it a clever variation on the “Screen-Life” horror-thrillers that Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov has recently cornered the market on. Yes, “Creepypasta”-style Internet hoaxes are real enough, and YouTubers are often scuzzy morons who are both old enough to know better and too young to be taken seriously. But there’s only so much blood left in this well-tapped anti-vlogging vein, as is apparent during laughable interstitial scenes where an unidentified computer user breathes heavily while they upload Mike’s last known footage to his website. Take that, you unaccountable and (literally) mouth-breathing whippersnappers!
With all that said, “Followed” is often disarmingly mean, which goes a long way in these sorts of post-“Blair Witch Project” genre exercises. For starters, Mike is an irresistible target thanks to Solomon’s enthusiastic performance. Solomon makes it easy to imagine that somebody like Mike exists in real life, if only in small doses. He does a credibly unfortunate happy dance when Mike shows Chris and his fellow cameraperson Danni (Sam Valentine) to their room: #1428, the infamous residence of devil-worshipping serial killer David “Night Crawler” Olmos (Ethan Alexander). Solomon is also believably petulant whenever Mike tries to shock his friends with the grossest thing that comes to mind, especially when he suggests making shish kebabs after he spots an air vent that may or may not have been the final resting place of ex-lodger Meghan Kim (Sarah Chang), whose corpse was inexplicably burnt to a crisp.