Followed brings the concept of found footage paranormal horror to the next level, delivering a fantastically frightening film that comes in the form of a mysterious screen recording.
Matthew Solomon stars as DropTheMike, a rising millennial vlogger in this horror movie directed by Antoine Le. Mike’s goal is to get to 50,000 subscribers by Halloween night in order to receive a sponsorship from clothing line Haute Gothic. He decides to do a special three night vlog at the Lennox Hotel, an old establishment in downtown Los Angeles with a dark, violent past.
Solomon is joined by Tim Drier as Chris, DropTheMike’s director of photography, Caitling Grace Utting as Nic, the team’s editor, and Sam Valentine as Danni, sound and second camera . Rounding out the cast are Kelsey Grisswold as Jess, Mike’s fiance and John Savage as Wallace Fleischer, an expert on the Lennox hotel. Each and every actor gave a stellar performance, with Solomon, Utting and Drier shining especially bright. This is likely due to how the film was created; the producers cast these actors before the script was completed and writer Todd Klick used the actors behavior and mannerisms as a guideline for the characters in his script.
This style of development isn’t unheard of, but it’s rarely seen used so effectively. While Sam Valentine, Kelsey Grisswold and the rest of the supporting cast do a stellar job, none of them embody their characters so flawlessly as the aformentioned three. Nic’s role in the story isn’t incredibly large, but it is pivotal and masterfully acted. Due to the dark forces of the Lennox, Nic slowly begins to lose her mind. Utting brings an intensity and sharp edge to her character initially, before ultimately showing a painfully vulnerable and raw side to her character in her final scene with DropTheMike.
As for Tim Drier, it’s his performance as Christopher that ultimately glues the story together. Wearing multiple hats as a punching bag for Nic, Mike’s best friend/voice of caution, and love interest for Danni is a tall order, and Drier delivers on all accounts. He sets up the basic conflict with Mike, warning him to stop provoking the evil before it’s too late, but unsurprisingly, his words are not heeded.
As great as Drier was, the MVP of Followed has to be it’s lead, the magnificent Matthew Solomon. Solomon captured the essence of DropTheMike as a complicated, roguish, and delightfully amoral protagonist and put it on display in a truly unforgettable performance. In trying to understand the reasons for Mike’s actions, one finds layers upon layers of depth, especially when rewatching the film. The nature of the film as a screen recording of a vlog raises further questions about the reality of DropTheMike’s story. How much of the horror was staged or premeditated? How much did Mike really know about the hotel and it’s secrets?
Solomon’s journey as DropTheMike ends on a morbidly exciting note that organically sets up a sequel. After winning several awards on the festival circuit, including Best Horror/Thriller Feature Film at the Burbank International Film Festival, Hollywood Independent Filmmaker Awards & Festival, and the Sydney Indie Film Festival, Followed began its theatrical run at several drive-in theaters across the country on June 19th, 2020.
Development has already begun on a sequel. If Antoine Le and Todd Klick can craft a sequel featuring Matthew Solomon returning to his role as the twisted vlogger in a story as thoughtful and well-crafted as this one, horror fans will be treated to something almost unheard of within the genre; a high quality found footage franchise.
The Lennox Hotel is a location that frightened me as much, if not more than the Overlook, and it deserves to be remembered as such. The set design, especially in the basement was phenomenal, and the ghastly spirits that plagued it looked incredible and grotesque. Director Antoine Le brought the grim setting (which was loosely based off of the real world Cecil Hotel) to life and injected the hotel with a genuine feeling of malevolence. By turning the Lennox from a mere locale into a character with it’s own history, feelings and motivations, Le and Klick increased the stakes and tensions of every scene that’s set on the property.
Like many great independent horror movies, Followed might not be on your radar yet. It’s an indie project featuring a cast of mostly unknown actors that’s only been seen at festivals and drive-ins thus far, so don’t feel remiss if you hadn’t heard of the film before now.
That being said, now that you are familiar with Antonie Le’s incredible feature directorial debut, horror fans, it’s time to put Followed on the top of your watchlist. The film is meticulously crafted, and delightfully nightmarish. The scares in this found footage gem are more frightening than almost any horror offering headlining the weekend box office, and the acting is simply spectacular across the board. Followed is the next evolution in it’s unique sub-genre, and it shouldn’t be missed.
Click here to see if Followed is playing at your local drive-in theater here, and stay tuned for our interviews with Director Antonine Le and lead actor Matthew Solomon, the man behind DropTheMike, coming soon.