Review by Sean Boelman
In the modern age of social media, we have already seen numerous films capitalize on our increasingly online personas. Don’t let the Shudder release of Kurtis David Harder’s Influencer fool you — this isn’t really a horror movie, but rather, a thriller that tries (and only sometimes succeeds at) challenging our preconceived notions of social media personalities.
The film follows a social media influencer who, while beginning to grow disillusioned on a solo backpacking trip in Thailand, meets a free-spirited young woman who seems to encourage her to live her best life. However, it soon becomes clear that the apparently kind stranger might have more sinister intentions than it seems.
The first thirty minutes of the movie set up what seems like it will be a relatively traditional stalker thriller, albeit with an angle that is fundamentally modern. It’s somewhat hard to get into this influencer spin on Fatal Attraction because the characters are, quite frankly, a nuisance — although that is part of the point.
However, around the twenty-five minute mark, there is a twist that takes the film in a radically different direction from where it seemed to be heading in the first act. Although the delayed title card isn’t entirely earned, the second half of the movie is infinitely more compelling than the relatively weak setup.
Unfortunately, the film fails to use its intriguing premise to deliver much in the way of meaningful commentary on its themes. The movie’s themes are pretty standard questions about the price of fame, and the only substantial statement it offers as an answer is that once one gets a taste of it, it can be difficult to let it go.
The film is absolutely elevated by a strong performance by Cassandra Naud, who is wonderfully sinister. Emily Tennant, Sara Canning, and Rory J. Saper are all exaggeratedly awful as the influencers, but Naud consistently steals the show. Naud opts for a grounded take on the role when she easily could have gone hammy.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the movie is that director Kurtis David Harder doesn’t succeed at building suspense. We’re not necessarily rooting for Naud’s character — but we aren’t rooting against her either. The result is a feeling that we are watching this situation voyeuristically, and it feels somewhat cold.
Influencer is a pretty intriguing film, and while it’s a struggle to get through a somewhat obnoxious setup, the back half is rewarding in a way that makes it worth watching. Hopefully Cassandra Naud gets more substantial roles after this, because she is pretty phenomenal here.
Influencer streams on Shudder beginning May 26.