The world of social media mints and reshapes celebrities daily. Some find their fifteen minutes, while others launch long-term brand collaborations. Yet this also opens the door for parasocial relationships. A new Shudder thriller, Influencer seeks to capitalize on this idea. Set around social media, Influencer serves as a fun thriller. While it has little new to say about its core subject, it expertly homages iconic works.
Madison (Emily Tennant) finds herself on vacation alone in Thailand. While there, she befriends CW (Cassandra Naud), a woman with a keen eye for fun. The two become close friends, only for CW to leave Madison on an island and take over her life. In the following weeks, CW finds her next target, only to be surprised when Ryan (Rory J. Saper) – Madison’s boyfriend – comes looking for her.
Director Kurtis David Harder helps ingratiate us to the world of social media influencers. He captures some gorgeous cinematography and frames many shots to recreate influencer tropes. The settings Harder catches are gorgeous on their right, and as a result, Influencer feels like the real deal. Harder & Tesh Guttikonda‘s screenplay pulls from The Talented Mister Ripley and Single White Female to tell its story. Yet it has little to say about social media or the parasitic relationships it creates that have not been thoroughly explored.
The real standout comes from Naud, who dominates Influencer with her unhinged performance. She shifts from scene to scene, fitting the exact nature of the characters she chooses to explore. Yet she’s at her best when the camera focuses on her non-verbal activity. While she can chameleon into any setting, intense thought and meticulous planning moments stand out. There’s an intensity that Naud generates that unnerves. This adds the nervous energy that helps Influencer capture its tone.
The rest of the cast serves their purpose, but no one really rises to Naud’s level. Tennant does her best in limited screen time and matches Naud’s charisma. Meanwhile, the cinematography from David Schuurman helps capture the natural beauty of Thailand. Harder completes a late title card drop (over twenty minutes into Influencer) which sets up a wise change of perspective. At its best, Schuurman and Harder turn Influencer into a top-tier “from hell” genre flick. This alone makes us celebrate its victories.
Influencer will not change your mind about social media or those who obsess over it. At the same time, it brings near certain enjoyability to any audience. At worst, Naud’s performance will thrill. At best, the audience can pull valuable lessons out of social media chaos. Influencer draws from great movies, and while it never rises to their levels, it makes for a compelling companion piece to the works that influenced it.