‘FOLLOW Her’ is a mystery thriller on Prime Video that is about how some unscrupulous people can exploit social media for their own selfish ends. It has plenty of twists and it’s up to you to buy them or not.
The movie starts in darkness and then we see a man peaking out of a big trunk in which he seems to be trapped. A woman is seen holding axe, about to torture him. This seemingly frightful scene from a horror film turns out to be fake scenario.
The woman is Jess Peters (Dani Barker, who also wrote the script), an aspiring actress who now acts as a dominatrix to the man in the trunk who pays her. What he doesn’t know is that Jess is secretly videotaping their encounter.
Dani secretly films the sleazy interactions she has with male strangers that she encounters on classified jobs listing. She then posts their videos on her own youtube channel on the Live Hive streaming service and people can watch them so she can make money.
She lives in a luxurious New York apartment owned by her father, who tells her to look for a real job, instead of making money on men whose face she just scrambles on screen during their sexual encounters to somehow protect their identity.
In her next job, she is hired by a man, Tom (Luke Cook), to help him write a screenplay in Upstate New York. He says he has an erotic story in the vein of Hitchcock. The pay is great, so Jess goes alone, even if the venue turns out to be in the middle of nowhere.
The place looks like a barn but it is lavishly furnished. Tom turns out to be a handsome guy, unlike the sleazy men who have hired her before. He’s an Australian with an odd sense of humor, using hidden cameras to record Jess’s every action.
He ends up tormenting her and Dani soon starts to fear for her life as she seems to be a mere pawn in a sadistic game that he is playing. It’s revealed that Tom has intimate knowledge of Jess’ personal life and past secrets.
The script Tom is supposed to be writing is entitled “Classified Killer” but it looks like the two characters in it are actually Dani and Tom. Also, it’s unfolding in real time and Dani seems to be final victim. This is called poioumenon, a type of metafiction in which the work is about the process of the creation of the story itself.
Since Dani is herself the screenwriter of “Follow Her” and also plays the lead character who is also an actress tasked to write a screenplay with an ending that might be modelled closely upon her very own self. She doesn’t really know what’s happening: whether she’s being wooed by Tom in a perverse way, being framed up by him or being set up for a grisly staged death.
Director Sylvia Carminer makes it a guessing game for us viewers. Soon, the line that separates reality from fiction, art from exploitation, becomes blurred and us viewers become as confused as the character, what with all the layers of play acting and metafiction being shown on screen.
It is no longer clear what is real and what is mere fabrication. And after all the discourse on Jess and her online identity, do we still want to “Follow Her”? And here lies the biggest drawback of the movie.
At first, we side with Jess and root for her. But after learning all the imposture and the exploitation she did with her own victims, we cannot help but judge her based on her previous actions and choices.
The movie doesn’t end with the exposition of Tom’s real motive on Jess. The epilogue suggests that Jess has been traumatized by the experience but she soon discovers a potential way on the live streaming platform for her to take revenge on Tom and his cohorts, and also expose the dark underbelly of social media surveillance and manipulation.
As such, the movie also serves as a warning for us, specially to those who are addicted to social media, that there are always sick people out there who will want to hack on our social media accounts and data privacy.
And we think it’s really best to watch this film via streaming because when what’s happening on screen becomes incoherent, you can always rewind it to review what’s really going on.