Now Streaming: The Follower (2022) - Reviewed


Brett Bentman returns to the horror genre with a vicious social media slasher film.  This is an intriguing entry in Bentman's filmography as it eschews the large-scale ambitions of some of his recent offerings in favor of a single location thriller with a rowdy cast of characters.  Featuring some genuinely surprising twists and turns, a fully committed ensemble, and a pitch-black screenplay, The Follower is a millennial nightmare given form. 

LJ is an aspiring social media star who is attacked during a live video, skyrocketing her subscribers, but the assailant escapes.  In the aftermath, she and several friends decide to vacation at a Texas hideaway, hoping to avoid the stalker, which leads to several unexpected, violent surprises.  Christopher Briewer's script brims with cliches and stereotypes, however these only serve to create a unique ambiance that hangs over every scene.  It's clear that the principals have no idea how much danger they're in, but it is interesting the way Briewer and Bentman explore the classic trope through a modern lens.  Where the victims of the past were almost always victims of circumstance and carefree living, the central quartet are essentially grifters, parasites living off of the electronic addictions of the masses and the central premise is a result of that lifestyle.  

Jenny Babas stars as LJ.  She is supported by Bentman staple Thom Hallum, Michael Wagemann and Stephanie Oustelet.  Oustelet in particular steals the spotlight as LJ's best friend living in the electric shadow of LJ's newfound limelight.  In addition, Monty Sopp, AKA Billy Gunn from professional wrestling has an absolutely hysterical role that threatens to upend the entire film with his awkward charisma. It is clear that the cast members are having fun with the material, lampooning a lost generation whose preoccupation with fame and avoiding traditional employment have become the cornerstones of a piecemeal culture.  Ultimately, Bentman is able to explore these concepts via violence and unexpected plot developments, the result of which is a scathing dissent about the current online landscape.

Bentman co-conspirators Anthony Gutierrez and Jeff Hamm return to lens and edit. Gutierrez's visuals frame the glitz and faux-pageantry of the city with harsh, synthetic colors that contrast the peaceful, earthy tones of the Texas countryside.  At night, the worlds meld into a neon lit hellscape, where blues, crimson reds, and shadows flood the optics, made possible by Hamm's skillful editing.  The result is a bloodstained parable about the dangers of obsession.  

Now available for digital streaming, The Follower is a slick independent cautionary tale.  Fame, fortune, and validation are easily sold pipedreams in a world where nothing and no one is real.  Underneath the star struck veneer of iPhone apps and black mirrors, a purgatory of deceit, self-loathing, and a tragic disconnection from reality awaits those who would venture too close to the spotlights, burning wings of Like reacts and Number of Views.  In Bentman's capable hands, The Follower takes its place among his pantheon of gritty Texas neo-folklore as an interloper from the world beyond and the yield is a nasty piece of genre storytelling that does not disappoint. 

--Kyle Jonathan