Dir. Kurtis David Harder (2022)
A social media travel influencer meets a stranger in Thailand who teaches her a more interesting way to travel, but things are not always as they seem.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The world of social media seems to be chock full of influencers nowadays, generally young people pulling in investment banker salaries to travel the world and occasionally plug a product that they probably don't even use. They get products early (and for free), comped trips to the fanciest places on the planet, and live lives of luxury that would make a Rockefeller jealous because they look good enough on camera to garner enough followers to be paid for their endorsements. It's a hell of a life if you can manage it, but it breeds the sort of contempt and jealousy that is usually reserved for robber barons and sweatshop owners, an anger at the apparent ease of the work that seems to be compensated well beyond its worth to society.
That's not to say, however, that there is no actual value in what an influencer provides. After all, there has been advertising for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, and there is a value created by someone who can sell a product or service. It's also not to say that everything in the life of an influencer is easy, as Madison (Emily Tennant) discovers after her luxury villa in Thailand is broken into and her passport is stolen. She traveled to Asia to meet people and live an interesting life, and she finally gets her chance when she comes across CW (Cassandra Naud), who saves her from the advances of an older Englishman in the hotel bar. Unfortunately for Madison, CW is a bit more interested in her than her standard follower, a fact she quickly learns when she is deserted on an island as CW assumes her identity (and her influencer lifestyle).
This twisty thriller, streaming now on Shudder, is a good one. I was sent the screener before it released but for some reason wasn't able to access it. I was intrigued enough to seek it out on the actual platform and was very glad that I did. The Talented Mr. Ripley meets Fatal Attraction, Influencer is a psychological thriller that hits home in the digital age. It's easy to imagine something like this actually happening, especially in the potentially dangerous world of travel influencers.
While there were parts that dragged a little bit (as psychological thrillers are wont to do), most of the film was interestingly paced and with a surprisingly original structure. I was never completely sure where the plot would go, and Naud's protagonist was a captivating and beguiling character. The scenery was gorgeous, filled with jutting cliffs and local Thai culture, a classier and less grimy showcase of the country than you see in most films. The direction was also fantastic, and both director Kurtis David Harder and director of photography David Schuurman did a great job of framing things in an interesting way. I actually enjoyed the ending as well, a nice full circle that makes it all worthwhile.
I haven't been a big fan of a lot of the more recent Shudder originals, lukewarm and hit or miss at best. This is one of the better ones that I've come across as of late, and it's a fresh, modern-age thriller that is definitely worth a watch. Influencer fits well into the "dangerous travel" genre of horror, and while it doesn't contain the thrills or brutality of a film like Turistas, it's an excellent addition to the Shudder lineup. Check it out.
Who this movie is for: Thriller fans, Scenery geeks, Travel bloggers
Bottom line: While there isn't a whole lot of originality within mainstream cinema, Influencer is a taut thriller that is well worth a watch. One of the better additions to Shudder's recent filmography, it's well acted, fantastically paced, and gorgeous to look at. Give this one a look when you get the chance.