Watching Death of a Vlogger (2019) in a Glasgow cinema with a mainly Scottish audience was an amazing experience. Director and star Graham Hughes hails from Glasgow himself, and the film was shot in the area, with most of the scenes taking place within Graham’s flat. So being able to attend the Scottish premiere as part of FrightFest Glasgow 2020, which Graham and the cast were also in attendance at, was extra special.
Death of a Vlogger is a found-footage/mockumentary horror movie that follows the life of vlogger Graham (played by Graham Hughes himself), who begins to encounter spooky occurrences in his flat. The film swaps between footage that Graham has uploaded to the internet and interviews with those closest to Graham and the situation he ends up in.
Along for the ride is Graham’s girlfriend Erin (Annabel Logan), and after their first couple of encounters with the paranormal presence in Graham’s flat, they decide to pull in fellow vlogger/ghost hunter Steve (Paddy Kondracki) for some advice. The team holds a seance to try and figure out what is going on in the flat, which, as it usually does in horror movies, only seems to make things worse.
The most interesting thing about Death of a Vlogger is what’s real and what isn’t. As we get further into the film, we discover that Graham and Erin have been faking parts of their spooky encounters. However, there are other parts that Graham denies having any part in. We want to believe him because we’re being shown this apparently raw and unedited footage whenever the ghost pops up in his flat, but after he confesses the deception, it’s tough to see him as a reliable narrator. We’re reshown clips that seemed real the first time around, this time with the trickery highlighted, and it makes the audience feel incredibly wrong-footed. Even when the movie ended, it was hard to decide what really happened and how I felt about Graham as a character. Because of this, I think Death of a Vlogger is definitely going to benefit from multiple watches and spending more time focussing on things that are happening in the background to see if I can catch any movie trickery going on.
Death of a Vlogger also succeeds in being very scary, which is impressive for how low budget it is, and the fact that the found-footage genre is typically very hard to get right. All of the effects were done without the use of digital trickery, including wires, moving furniture, hovering ghosts, and a very Day of Dead (1985) hands through the wall moment, which made the whole thing even creepier because it felt so real. Graham’s attempted escape from his flat in the climax was a particular highlight for me, with a simple effect packing a powerful punch and leaving you feeling instantly claustrophobic.
The movie is also hilarious, with the laughs helping to ease the tension of feeling trapped in Graham’s flat along with him. Steve the ghost hunter is particularly hilarious, and there’s an excellent ouija board joke which perhaps worked best with a high percentage of Scottish people in the audience.
Death of a Vlogger also does what horror movies do best, by taking real-life issues and reflecting them back to us along with more traditionally scary elements. In this case, it’s what a terrible place the internet can be, and how easy people find it to treat other people horribly when there aren’t any repercussions involved. Sure, we feel cheated by Graham, and we’re not sure if we can trust him as a person, but does that mean he deserves the internet pile-on that happens to him as a result? Obviously not – and yet, that’s how people are treated on the internet every day. The internet’s reaction towards Graham is honestly more terrifying than the potential ghost because that feels like it could happen to any of us for merely posting an opinion on Twitter.
I highly recommend you see Death of a Vlogger as soon as you can, get a little bit freaked out, and remember to be kinder to those around you and on the internet.
REVIEW SCORE – 4/5
Death of a Vlogger made its Scottish premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival 2020.