Popcorn Frights Review: Sylvia Caminer Comments On Influencer Culture With Debut Thriller ‘Follow Her’
The idea of a social media influencer has taken off greatly within the last couple decades but it’s never been at more of the forefront than it is right now in 2022. Sylvia Caminer’s feature length directorial debut, Follow Her, takes the idea of a social media influencer and places it firmly into a psychological thriller when an aspiring actress answers an ad calling for a screenwriter to help a filmmaker finish his next movie. Full of twists and turns and unpredictable characters, Follow Her will constantly have you on the edge of your seat guessing what’s going to happen next.
The movie opens with Jess Peters, played by Dani Baker who also wrote the film, doing a job for a masochist who wants her to do the things his wife refuses to, which includes tying him up and putting him into a freezer. This quickly ends though as his time which he had paid for expires and she ventures back home where she opens a live stream which quickly turns sinister as somebody in the comments suggests that they are watching her on the boat ride home. A paranoid Jess looks around before the movie quickly cuts to an opening title sequence set to some pop music that introduces us to the world of Live Hive, a streaming app, which Jess is looking to climb the ranks of in her search for stardom.
Before being introduced to the main conflict of the plot we are treated to a little more backstory on Jess who is currently living in her parents rental apartment that they are looking to sell. Her father in particular is very hard on Jess as he wants to “stop enabling her” and wants her to get a “real job” and give up her dreams of acting. It’s a bit cliche in terms of backstory but it’s also highly relatable to anybody who has pursued their dreams despite people around them telling them not to. The opening act sees Jess interacting a lot through text and the text bubbles popping up on screen gives the film an ultra modern look that utilizes a lot of flash to display the varying text boxes, cameras during the stream and comment sections that encompass her everyday life.
Unsure of what to do about her potentially losing the apartment she lives in Jess responds to a Craigslist ad which calls for an actress to help a filmmaker, Tom (Luke Cook) finish his script for a large sum of money. The two meet at a park which sets off the rest of the film as the hesitant Jess is lured back to his cabin to work out the details. It’s clear from their opening moments together that Jess is skeptical of Tom but she agrees to go along with things in a chance that things are truly as good as they seem. There’s certainly a weird aura about Tom but it’s an expertly crafted dynamic because Jess herself is both aware of the possibility that Tom isn’t what he seems but also is playing him partially too when she sets up cameras at his cabin.
Upon arriving at the cabin and reading the script which perfectly details their encounter up until that point leaves Jess confused and paranoid as to what’s going on the movie turns into a thriller that has both of their actions dictating both the ending of the movie and Tom’s screenplay. It’s all done in a very meta way and the dialogue itself which is a particular standout of the film will leave the viewer constantly second guessing themselves with the two wildly unpredictable leads. It’s a cliché setup but through the unpredictability of the characters it is constantly subverting the clichés because the characters in the movie are aware of them and constantly trying to escape them to make their screenplay more interesting and not fall a victim to the other.
The entire cat and mouse aspect of the story is accompanied by direction that is constantly shifting along with the story. It does so in a couple of ways but the main way is by the shifting cameras that feature a mix of traditional camera work and diegetic hidden cameras placed throughout the environment by Jess. It makes the movie lack a bit of visual cohesiveness at times, but it’s certainly an interesting approach especially when the text bubbles and comment sections accompany the constantly shifting cinematography. Sylvia Caminer’s Follow Her does a lot of interesting things with it’s seemingly generic premise that are certain to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout it’s 90 minute runtime. The ending is gonna polarize some with it’s multiple faux endings and rapid pace but that doesn’t take away from the rich dialogue, interesting visuals and multitude of timely themes that will have you second guessing the cost of internet fame.