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The Intense Paranormal Horror You Can Stream On Amazon

There's a thriving subgenre of horror movies that take place entirely on computer screens, succinctly described as "desktop films." They're also called "Screen Life" (via The Hollywood Reporter), a term invented by the genre's foremost practitioner, producer-director Timur Bekmabetov, who produced the first mainstream desktop film, 2014's Unfriended, and three in 2018: Profile (which he also directed), Searching, and Unfriended: Dark Web. The desktop film genre features a pair of great movies, the pandemic-set Zoom-based ghost story Host and the aforementioned John Cho-led mystery thriller Searching, as well as a number of lesser but still worthwhile offerings.

One of those is Followed, a paranormal horror film that hit the festival circuit in 2018 and was released last year. It's now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. It takes the form of screen recordings of vlogs made by a controversial YouTuber named DropTheMike (Matthew Solomon), who disappeared after spending a weekend in the supposedly cursed Lennox Hotel.  Followed opens with a title card establishing the context: "On November 5th, 2016 an anonymous user uploaded the following screen recording to social media websites. The video was removed by authorities within minutes. For years it could only be watched on the dark web. Until now." Things only get crazier from there.

Followed is a horror flick/social media satire

Followed is inspired by a number of real-life characters and events. The Lennox Hotel is based on the Cecil Hotel, the subject of the recent Netflix docuseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. Real events from the Cecil's sordid history, like the tragic death of a young woman named Elisa Lam and the unconfirmed but credible report that serial killer Richard Ramirez stayed there, get fictionalized for use in the film. And DropTheMike is inspired by glib influencers who treat real death and tragedy as entertainment — most infamously Logan Paul, who posted a video of a dead body he found in Japan's "suicide forest" (via NBC News).

The film — the debut feature from director Antoine Le — has a 73% "Fresh" score on Rotten Tomatoes, though the content of the reviews themselves are actually closer to lukewarm than enthusiastic. RogerEbert.com's Simon Abrams gave it 2.5 stars and praised Solomon's performance as Mike, a deeply unlikeable, greedy narcissist who's willing to put himself and his friends in danger in pursuit of a sponsorship from a clothing brand called "Haute Gothic." He's a pitch-perfect parody of a certain type of influencer. "While "Followed" won't lead you to any conclusions that you can't get reach by yourself," Abrams writes, "it's sometimes fun getting there anyway." The audience score is oddly lower than the critical score, at 45%, but you can watch it and decide for yourself.