This week is the annual Horror Film Festival Screamfest, and we had the pleasure of screening Director Sylvia Caminer’s film Follow Her.
The film centers on Jess Peters (Dani Barker), a struggling actress and live streamer who has finally found her hook. She secretly films creepy interactions she encounters via online job listings and using the kinks of others to fuel her streaming success. For her next episode, she’s been hired to write the ending of a screenplay in a remote, lavish cabin. Once there, the alluring self-proclaimed screenwriter Tom (Luke Cook) hands her a script in which the two of them are the main characters.
This client isn’t what he seems. And even though the money’s great… the real payment here could cost her life.
How Important Is It To Go Viral?
Social media grows every single day. It’s one of the ways we all connect. But it’s also become a lucrative business of sorts for “influencers.” With this continuous growth, the amount of those “influencers” increases as well. This oversaturation is what has led to so many attempting to become the next viral star. The pressure to outdo each other is non-stop. And there are often no limits some will go to in order to maintain their “fame.”
Jess, AKA J-Peeps, is famous for filming herself when she goes out for random job listings that turn into creepy interactions. She puts each interaction up on the website Live Hive, where her followers can livestream each one. The thing is, the people she puts up on the social media site have no clue that they are even being filmed or placed on the site for the world to see.
When Jess has her encounters, she always does it in disguise and uses an alias to protect her identity. As for the people she places in those videos, she edits their faces so that nobody can recognize them. After her most recent encounter, though, something happens. The identity of one of the people she filmed is briefly exposed. Of course, this situation isn’t good for Jess because the people she has on camera are unaware they are being filmed.
Because the video just happens to be one of Jess’s most popular ones and has pushed her ranking up to 11th, which is one step closer to making it to the top 10, she’s having a hard time figuring out what to do. Now, we know what she should do — delete the video. But that’s not what Jess chooses to do.
For Jess, that popularity means everything. It means more fame, recognition, and finances. The fact that she chose to leave the video up without giving it a second thought proved that her success meant more to her than hurting a total stranger.
In Jess’s mind, what she did was harmless. I truly believe she thought that nobody was paying that much attention to what she was doing. So, to her, she wasn’t hurting anyone at all.
What she failed to realize is every action has consequences.
Jess is always searching for the next big gig that will bring her the fame she so desperately craves. So, when she is presented with the opportunity to work on a screenplay, she thinks it just may be what she needs. After responding to an email from a cute Australian dude named Tom Brady — yup, Tom Brady is his name — they agree to meet up and work on the screenplay together.
One thing I have to say when it comes to this is that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. When Jess goes to meet up with Tom, she has to take a ride on an eerily empty train. Then, she has to take a solo walk through a wooded area to get to some park. The whole thing screams, “run and run fast.” Especially when Tom tells Jess to get to his place they have to walk through more woods. And then, his place turns out to be a barn.
I mean, it’s a nice barn…But still, the whole thing had me saying, “girl no” as I watched.
Jess’s red flag signal was turned completely off or on low because of Tom’s hotness, but this girl would have been out the moment I stepped on that train and saw it was leading me to the middle of nowhere. Like, for real, most writers tend to meet up at places like coffee shops or libraries. Not a park that leads to a barn. And especially not alone with someone you just met two seconds ago. My only guess for why Jess would even go through with any of this is because she wants the money and the recognition. Safety be damned.
Let’s be real: From the beginning of this meetup, Jess makes a lot of weird and bad decisions. That just continues once they arrive at his barn. I mean, she’s making out with this guy she has some reservations about. So, it makes the viewer question everything about her. We feel the apprehension that she feels, as well as the fear when she realizes that Tom’s plans for her are much more sinister than she realized.
But, we’re also confused by the choices she makes. Are they genuinely thoughtful decisions, or is it all part of her own plan? It’s something that keeps you guessing.
When it becomes clear what Tom’s true intentions are, Jess learns that she is going to have to fight for her life. Fighting for her life includes getting rid of her social media postings and admitting to being a fraud. Tom wants to punish her for all of the people she’s posted on her site and what he believes to be “mindless drivel.” He wants the world to see her for who she is because he hates “influencers.”
Tom wants Jess to realize that what she does affects people — whether she wants to believe it or not. He decides to put the real Jess on display for the whole world to see, and that’s something she isn’t prepared for. Even when he’s threatening her with her life, she still begs him to leave her site. Her life is literally in jeopardy, but she’s begging him to save her profile. It’s a shocking, but honestly realistic, moment. That’s because we know that people would die to keep their social media standings intact.
The film goes even further when Tom has the live stream going because it’s being shown everywhere. As people are watching, they’re trying to figure out if it’s just another one of J-Peeps’ encounters and if the whole thing is a setup.
That entire scene had me thinking about the fact that we are all constantly watching things on social media. Whether it’s TikTok, Instagram, or wherever, there are always some clips that have gone viral or some livestream happening. Like the people watching Jess, I have seen something occasionally and questioned its validity.
That’s what this constant need to be viral has done to us as a whole. Viewers are now finding it hard to distinguish fact from fiction.
Follow Her is not a bloody or gory film at all. It’s a psychological horror film. Sometimes, those can be scarier than the gory ones. Anything that has to do with the mind is always disturbing to watch because our minds are so fragile.
Tom does a great job of playing with Jess’s mind. Director Caminer and Barker, who wrote the script and stars in the film, came up with a very unique story. The twist was unexpected, and it kept me on the edge. By the time you reach the end of the film, you’re going to find yourself re-evaluating your approach to social media and all that comes with the need to go viral.
Some Other Things
- When Follow Her opened with ‘Dead Weight’ by Pvris, I knew this was my kind of film.
- Jess, girl I know you wanted that top 10 spot. But you should have just taken the video down.
- Jess’s dad kinda sucks.
- Solitary creepy train ride and walk to meet a stranger to write an erotic screenplay. Yup, still a hard pass for me.
- No cell connection? Nope. Time to go.
- Is this all worth $100?
- “He’s legit, but something is off.” Girl, there was never anything legit about Tom.
- Jess: Feels bad vibes about Tom. Also, goes back and makes out with said dude who creeps her out.
- “I’ll do the slow walk after you leave.”
- “So, you’re upset because he didn’t ask your permission? Did you ask permission of anyone in your videos?”
Watch the trailer for Follow Her below.
Follow Her is available through Heartland International Film Festival until Sunday, 10/16 — with a limited number of streams available.