As unexpectedly appearing as they often do, I seem to have discovered a new horror/thriller that neatly slides into one of my favorite unsung subgenres: obsessive psycho bitch. Influencer, from Spiral director Kurtis David Harder and co-writer Tesh Gutti, feels like a modern day Single White Female told through a strikingly feminine lens. I was surprised by many of the film’s twists and turns, and just how dark this creative team is willing to go with CW (Cassandra Naud, Descendants 2, A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish) and her sadistic character.
Madison (Emily Tennant, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, If There Be Thorns), an up-and-coming social media influencer, is living her best life in Thailand—or so it seems to her various followers. Her narration tells us that she makes a habit of “surrendering to the moment,” yet onscreen we see a very different story playing out before us. In reality, Madison’s exploration of Asia isn’t what she had expected. For one, her boyfriend, Ryan (Rory J. Saper, The Legend of Tarzan, The Pass), who was supposed to join, cancelled on her at the last minute. Taking pictures of her food and lounging about the resort can only stay appealing for so long before it begins to wear out its welcome.
New girl CW, who has a giant birthmark on her face, invites Madison for a walk; from there, their friendship begins to blossom during their hike to a beautiful spot, and riding on CW’s bike together. CW eventually invites Madison to come crash at her place deep within the jungle. No cell service and campfire story creepiness color CW’s home as mysterious and honestly a bit strange. It takes a solid half hour for the title treatment and opening credits to populate on the screen, but the reasoning for this is super obvious as soon as it happens…
Influencer is the type of movie that constantly reinvents itself as it progresses. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, there would be another titanic shift in the structure. The thriller slowly evolves into a tense game of cat-and-mouse. Mainly, this move makes Cassandra Naud an MVP of sociopathic manipulation. One can easily forgive a couple minor flaws that include mixed acting and occasional annoyances in the edit. When one’s script is this entertaining, there is not a lot to knock.
I think Influencer will surprise a lot of people. It would make for a solid double feature with a movie like Poison Ivy or The Hand That Rocks the Cradle—it would certainly be in good company for the genre’s “crazy bitch” elite. CW is established as a complex, disturbing social climber with a mind of her own. Not only that, but Influencer also leaves things wide open for a follow-up if they desire to take that route. How far would one go to be famous?
Influencer screened at 2022’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.