Death of a Vlogger (2019)

Death of a Vlogger is the mockumentary debut of Scottish writer Graham Hughes, who also directs and stars. We watched it through our fingers on Amazon Prime.

My process for watching movies is slightly unorthodox. Not because I sit there with a notepad or dictaphone, like a proper critic would, but because I simply don’t own a telly. I do own a digital projector, but the sad truth is I can’t always be bothered setting it up. The upshot of this is, when I’m watching films for my own enjoyment, I generally watch them on my phone.

As a reviewer, it behoves me to watch films properly. Given the amount of effort that goes into the mise-en-scène, the least I can do is shine it on a wall and have a bag of popcorn. However, on this occasion, I felt justified in watching Death of a Vlogger on a mobile device, because it’s a film about the haunting of a would-be YouTube celebrity. As Kim Newman notes with characteristic insight, this career is now “as much an invitation to get cursed and mangled as being an archaeologist on an expedition to a mummy’s tomb used to be in classic horror.”

The film is presented as a mockumentary, which is the older and more plausible cousin of found footage. I say “more plausible” because the framing device solves all the usual problems about who found or edited the footage, and the ability to fall back on talking heads means we can steer clear of exposition in other scenes.

Even better, this particular story neutralises the other typical complaint, which is: “Why are they still filming?” It’s established at the start of the film, and even the start of the trailer, that Graham (played by writer-director Graham Hughes) is desperate to get some viral footage. He’s supported in this by close friend Erin (Annabel Logan) and egomaniacal ghosthunter Steve (Paddy Kondracki). Various others speak to camera, chief among whom is annoyed sceptic Alice (Joma West), who makes it her mission to debunk the apparent haunting. The resulting tale has effective scares and even humour, embedded in a plot with more than one volte-face.

Because of the great word of mouth, I’ve been waiting to see Death of a Vlogger for a while. The good news is, I wasn’t disappointed. If you’re worried that the first hour of the film will be doors silently opening by themselves, rest assured that, by found footage standards, escalation is quite brisk. Between scares, the twisty-turny plot keeps you guessing, and the best description I can give is Lake Mungo crossed with the good bits of Paranormal Activity—combined (if you’re a fellow explorer of rare British horror) with definite shades of Resurrecting the Streetwalker, which also deals with the deteriorating mind of an obsessed creative.

Not all of the set pieces are super original. For instance: a trick with a sheet will be familiar to fans of the Paranormal Activity franchise. However, the effect is executed perfectly (and apparently in-camera), which is quite a feat for a low-budget film. Also, many of the scares are original, with superb use of editing in the final act. The scary bits are unlikely to disappoint, and the storytelling means you aren’t just waiting for the next scare. It’s a very creepy, thought-provoking film, and the kind of movie that makes indie horror such a joy to follow.

Those are my thoughts, and here are some other warm reviews I found:

Little Red Horror (“Death of a Vlogger also succeeds in being very scary, which is impressive for how low budget it is… I highly recommend you see Death of a Vlogger as soon as you can.”)

GFF Reviews (“Death of a Vlogger is a zero budget, no name, passion project made by a bunch of 20-year old pals in their flat. That being understood, it’s really ****ing good.”)

Scared Sheepless (“an absolute gem of a film… highly recommended as an incredible first feature.”)

Hacked 2 Pieces (“Graham Hughes delivers a little gem from out of nowhere that is one of 2020’s best horror flicks.”)

About the author

My name is Ellis. When I’m not reviewing movies, I write short stories about ghosts. If you like getting scared in the woods, you might enjoy Deep Summer Magic, which is also available as a free audiobook.

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