The Movie Waffler Screamfest LA 2022 Review - FOLLOW HER | The Movie Waffler

Screamfest LA 2022 Review - FOLLOW HER

Screamfest LA 2022 Review - FOLLOW HER
A struggling influencer finds trouble when she answers a call for a screenwriting job.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Sylvia Caminer

Starring: Dani Barker, Luke Cook, Eliana Jones, Mark Moses

follow her poster

In the wake of the MeToo movement we've seen a slew of indie thrillers that play out cat and mouse battles of the sexes in confined locations (A Wounded Fawn, Scare Me, Stalker et al). Director Sylvia Caminer's feature debut Follow Her gives us more to chew on than the simplistic "women good, men bad" message of many of its peers, with a female protagonist who is far from infallible.

The film's writer, Dani Barker, takes the lead role of Jess, a New York based wannabe actress who lives off her lawyer father's money while residing in his apartment in the city. Jess, who is a little too old for such an arrangement, wants to be independent, and supplements her income by performing as a dominatrix on a live streaming platform named Live Hive. She's amassed a decent amount of followers – seen in onscreen messages as a mix of horny men and encouraging women – but to make any real money she needs to get into the site's Top 10 streamers. While her onscreen persona is that of a powerful queen, off screen Jess has the demeanour of a woman who's permanently walking home from a bad one night stand in broken heels.

follow her review

Jess meets her male clients in various locations and indulges in S&M play. What her clients don’t realise is that she secretly films their encounters (usually with a pair of those Google glasses thingies – how are they legal???) and later posts the videos on Live Hive. To protect their identity she blurs out their faces, but when the software responsible fails on one video and briefly exposes a client's face she finds herself in a panic. A message to tech support is met with a reply that it will take five business days to respond. Does Dani do the right thing and delete the video? Nope, not with its views skyrocketing, becoming her most popular video and edging her closer to that elusive Top 10.

Amid her newfound fame, Dani seemingly enjoys another stroke of luck, receiving a reply to a screenwriting gig she applied for. The nominal director, Tom (Luke Cook), asks to meet Jess in a secluded park upstate. Jess should see red flags flying in the New York sky but she's become so accustomed to dominating men that she believes she can handle herself. Plus, it turns out Tom is a total hunk with a dreamy Australian accent, so she gladly follows him to his home, a barn in the middle of the woods.

follow her review

If you think you know where this is all headed, think again. Sure, Tom comes off like a creepy weirdo whose behaviour would send most women running, but Jess isn't most women. The sexually progressive Jess is perfectly fine with the idea that Tom might have simply lured her to his home for the sake of getting her into bed, as she's accustomed to being in control of sexual scenarios. For all the warning signs, she simply views Tom as another little boy who will end up tied to a bed and submitting to her whims. Plus, while Tom was printing off his barely formed screenplay, Jess secretly set up hidden cameras around his home in the hopes of capturing some juicy content.

While Tom and Jess engage in a form of psycho-sexual one-upmanship that we can't quite figure is sinister or playful, Caminer starts subtly directing our attention to what else might be at play here. The widescreen format is used to tease details in the background, and while we're certain Jess is oblivious to them, we're unsure if the same can be said of Tom. As their dance continues, we're left to figure out who is the predator and who is the prey in this scenario.

follow her review

Follow Her is fully aware of how flawed its protagonist is, even interrogating her actions and motivations in a final act which ups the ante. Some may feel the men Jess exploits deserve everything they get, but such people should ask themselves how they would feel if the sexes were reversed and a man was secretly filming his sexual encounters with unsuspecting women. What's so canny about Follow Her is how it introduces us to Jess through the lens of her dedicated followers and her own twisted idea of what it means to be a strong, independent woman, only to later force us to question why we're rooting for this pretty awful person. It's a daring move, but a refreshing one amid a rash of movies that patronisingly paint women as strong and independent or as victims. Caminer and Barker understand that you can create a strong, compelling female protagonist without making her aspirational, that there are awful, manipulative, sociopathic people in the world, some of whom happen to be women.

Follow Her
 played at Screamfest LA.

2022 movie reviews