Film school taught us that a woman crying and a man getting angry are too easy, like suicide as the solution to the plot or using your dorm room as a location, and I think that’s all true. Male anger and a crying female are the first reactions a writer, actor or director will think of. In real life, those are the most common reactions, but in film on-the-nose is, well, too on-the-nose. We want subtext; we want to figure it out. All good character is based somewhat in mystery: the why, when, where, what and how. We want complex characters simply portrayed. The tortured artist should be in the top ten with those ideas. It’s too easy. From Van Gogh to Kurt Cobain, we get it: artists suffer for their art. I am suffering at this very moment. But if we have to listen to one more whining artist—you get the point. Now, hopefully, any artists reading this will forgive me and keep reading. So who the hell would want to watch a movie about a tortured artist, a sub, sub, sub-genre—usually of horror—that isn’t even overdone because nobody wants to hear a—see above paragraphs. And then there is Follow (2015) directed by Owen Egerton. It was right after Fantasy Fest 2016, but I believe it may have found some success in Fantasy Fest 2015. I had a few bad days and needed some cinema therapy. Couldn’t find a thing to watch. I read the summary of Follow but passed on it, and when I went back through the list finding nothing else, I said screw it, I’ll see that. I just needed to get out of the house. We’ve all done this, or maybe I’m justifying some mild insanity for which a doctor might give me a pill if I get too close to one. We’ve all gone into a movie with no expectations, and it isn’t always a positive experience, but Follow surprised me, and I recovered from my problems by ignoring them, which I think is what cinema therapy is or should be anyway. Follow opens with a great quote by Anais Nin—classy. We fade up to Quinn standing in a lake or a river, and his girlfriend pops up out of the water. He was supposed to time her and he didn’t. She goes down again and says, “Follow me.” An abrupt musical sting and cut to the title and we know this is going to go bad. Later, he sees her sleeping and goes outside where a boy offers to sing for him a song for a dollar. The girl wakes up and joins him outside, and they talk. He didn’t go to bed. He was up all night painting. He’s waiting for an acceptance letter or a scholarship letter. Quinn arrives at his work in a bar and his coworker, Viv, has made him coffee, and then Ren, another coworker arrives. In some textbook parallel editing, the girlfriend finds his letter of acceptance, which he has been hiding. Then Ren at the bar mentions that Quinn’s girlfriend would never move to New York, and we get it. Quinn already knows this. He’s been lying. Later that night, Viv and Quinn talk outside, and she kisses him. Even more later, the girlfriend gives Quinn a present. It’s a gun. She wants him to stick it in his mouth and pull the trigger, claiming it’s a trust test—a decidedly and suddenly non-maudlin twist. Eventually, he closes his eyes and is about to pull the trigger, and BAM! That wasn’t a gunshot. It was an edit. We cut to the morning, he’s alive, blood spray on the ceiling fan, and the girlfriend is dead. That’s about eleven minutes into it, and I won’t ask for forgiveness for a spoiler that soon in. Damn fine opening, though, and definitely not a slow burner, and for that we thank you. I usually throw the actor names in during that summary, and hopefully, none of the actors stopped reading to send me an angry message, but Follow includes an exceptional cast, worthy of further and thorough mention. Noah Segan plays Quinn and has played Bart in “The Weak and the Wicked” segment of Tales of Halloween (2015) and Danny in Starry Eyes (2014) and a couple I don’t want to talk about. Actually, the guy looks young but to see his credits you wonder if he was a baby—well, I was going to make a joke that he has been acting since he was a baby, and he has, literally, and lucky for us he’s acted in quite a bit of horror. A few more decades on him, maybe a thin mustache and we could have someone like the horror legends of yore. Please. Olivia Grace Applegate—could you at least have one ugly name?—plays the girlfriend, Thana—okay, that name will do. To compare her role with any similar ones would spoil it, and she does an excellent job at it. Even when she—well, no I can’t say that either without spoiling it. I can say that she balances out Segan’s character with equal fervor and skill if not more. Hey, you know what else? I’m a man. Call me what you want, but do it on your own social media page, but I also think she’s beautiful, like exceptionally beautiful, the kind of beautiful that you would call Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth, or Audrey Hepburn, and I’d probably hide my acceptance letter too. Not sure about the scholarship letter, though. Credit also goes to the boy who sings for a dollar, Southern Longoria—could you parents please save the cool names for fiction and film, please. This is secondhand information through a friend, but Longoria apparently happened upon the set and was written into the film, and his character adds a much-needed thread of weirdness that strongly anchors the film in the bizarre, right where it should be. He, in fact, is kind of a psychopomp. I’ve been waiting to use that word for twenty years. Please read the long version of the definition. A psychopomp is kind of an omen type character, a harbinger of horror. The cast also includes Merik Tadros as Quinn’s coworker, Ren; and Don Most as Mr. Reynolds, the landlord, but you might remember him as Donny Most who played Ralph of Happy Days fame or maybe you’ve never even heard of that show. The real charmer, though, and the one who rounds out a great triangle is Haley Lu Richardson as Viv, the other girl interested in Quinn. Poor guy. We should all have your problems. Richardson brings a kind of sweet innocence to her character that balances Quinn and Thaya, but she plays what appears to be a simple role with great facility that belies the skill needed to play the one character who actually experiences the most dramatic physical challenges throughout the story. That sentence turned out nice. You owe me a beer. You have to give Owen Egerton credit for casting. Every actor has a damn good resume. Granted, I don’t watch or even know some of the work they’ve been in, but they’re pros, all of them except one, Southern Longoria, and that just proves Egerton has a good eye for actors and isn’t afraid to disrupt his original screenplay by sewing in that thread on the spot. What follows after those eleven minutes or so is a nightmare for Quinn and the audience as well as he tries to unravel the night before as his landlord, Viv, Ren, and Thaya’s sister visit him one at a time. Anything else would spoil it beyond that. Follow does, uhm, follow in the footsteps of two other great films. I’m holding to my guns on what I said. I think the tortured artist plot is too easy, and maybe I’m having a mid-life moment, but I can’t think of a handy list of bad films on this theme to give you, a list of films or just horror films that deal with the tortured artist. Two, however, stand out as good films: Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood – as in Corman directed it – and Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Color Me Blood Red. If Egerton keeps it up, and we hope he does, this could be a very good early work of a good director, but it already stands as an equal with those two films. The music, both the popular music and the score are exceptional for what appears to be such a small film, but Egerton cheated. He lives in Austin, the Live Musical Capital of the World. You can throw a rock and hit five musicians, and then get beat up by their fans, so if you’re an Austin filmmaker, the score and soundtrack better kick butt. The film has two locations, a house and a bar, but it’s mostly shot in the house. I think they cheated on the basement though. It’s filmed in the Deep South where houses don’t generally have basements, and that may be my only negative about this film. It uses that low-budget formula: what locations do I have, and utilizes them very well. Never does the film seem cramped by location and story, and there are just enough characters to balance out the limited locations if you even notice that. Unfortunately, Follow suffers from title blasé-ity: Christopher Nolan’s Following (1998); The Following (2013) with Kevin Bacon, a brilliant first season; It Follows (2014), which I have yet to see. What? You haven’t seen that yet? Quit saying that. All actually great works. This is the first film I watched and went home to write about. I have the opportunity to champion a film that deserves it, and that’s why you’re reading this now. Owen Egerton is an all-around guy who writes fiction, screenplays and is now a director. Is that the standard now? Is art so easy to do technology-wise and so hard to make money at that all artists must diversify their resume in other artistic fields in order to make a living? Egerton is also known locally as one of the members of Master Pancake Theater, a comedy troupe that makes fun of movies with a live performance, the live version of the Horror Movie Host raised to the level of kitsch and art by Elvira, Zacherle, Mystery Science Theater 3000 and thousands of other regional American performers, and I think breaking down a film in order to make fun of it might have made Egerton’s first film a great first film. As of this writing Follow is appearing in some theaters and on Amazon Video and iTunes and maybe elsewhere too. Check it out. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.