Influencer is a horror movie. You know this because it’s the latest from Kurtis David Harder, whose credits include being a producer on V/H/S/94, and because you’ll find it streaming on Shudder. Also, its opening shot reveals an isolated tropical island with a face-down body on the beach. So you have a sense of what you’re getting into. But Influencer is also one of those movies that rewards going in as unaware as possible.
Spoilers of the Week | June 3rd
So fear not: no plot spoilers here. After that eerie intro, we meet Madison (Emily Tennant, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency), who’s vacationing alone at a luxurious resort in Thailand. She’s putting on a bubbly show of selfies underscored with inspirational wisdom for her Instagram followers, but secretly she’s cursing her boyfriend, Ryan (Rory J. Saper), for ditching the trip last-minute. When the mysterious CW (Cassandra Naud, See) swoops in to rescue Madison from a sloshed fellow guest at the hotel bar, Madison is thrilled to meet a friend around her age who’s an experienced traveler and knows all the rad local spots—and not just because of the social-media content opportunities. Truth is, Madison has been bored and lonely, and has started to second-guess her career path as well as her relationship.
Just when you think you know where Influencer is going, it pulls a switcheroo, playing into tropes (yes, there is a “no cell service” moment) while also setting you on edge when you realize you have no idea what’s going to happen next. Even the opening credits, which appear shockingly late into act one, will take you by surprise. Like the movie itself, many of the performances in Influencer layer surprising depth beneath deliberately superficial first impressions. But best of all is how the movie blends its very 2023 themes about social media (including the warped sense of self that being too online can create—and the insidious ways technology can be used to shape perceptions of reality) into a nail-biting vacation horror flick. It won’t make you want to avoid new experiences, but it certainly might make you think about leaving your phone turned off.
Influencer arrives May 26 on Shudder.
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