Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 32m
Director(s): Kurtis David Harder
Writer(s): Kurtis David Harder, Tesh Guttikonda
Cast: Cassandra Naud, Emily Tennant, Rory J Saper, Sara Canning
Where To Watch: streaming on Shudder May 26, 2023
RAVING REVIEW: Lights, camera, post! INFLUENCER, directed by Kurtis David Harder, peels back the glamourous façade curated by social media personalities, examining the fleeting and sometimes hollow world they inhabit. This may seem like a pretty shallow idea, but the way this script is handled is fascinating. A film that could have been over the top cheesy or quickly taken a simple way out instead decided to take this idea and run with it.
We are introduced to Madison, brought to life by Emily Tennant, who embodies an influencer's duality. Underneath lies a profound loneliness and the desire to be liked and wanted, but there are never enough likes to satiate her need.
Enter CW, a fascinating character played by Cassandra Naud. Her character’s zest for raw, unfiltered experiences starkly compares to Madison's manicured online life, serving as a breath of fresh air from Madison's pixelated reality.
Tesh Guttikonda and Harder wrote the script; they managed to elegantly interweave the plot with tension and a critique of the vanity associated with social media. As the narrative veers into more of a thriller/horror, Madison finds herself helpless and with limited options. This surprising twist of events underscores the vast chasm between Madison’s polished online world and her stark offline reality.
The cast delivers worthy performances that shocked me at every turn. I assumed they would be playing these vapid damsels in distress and instead offer up a unique mix and chemistry with each other. Despite their characters' imperfections, they simultaneously stir sympathy and a desire to root for them. I didn’t start the film assuming that I would dislike them, but I wasn’t expecting to be sucked so far into this reality.
The film offers some incredible scenery, thanks to Thailand's beauty and some opulent locations on set, mixed with a memorable score; they work together to bring this world to life. Harder maintains a tightrope balance between escalating suspense and surprising plot twists. The film plays a psychological game with the audience leading them down a path of misdirection.
Tennant's portrayal of Madison symbolizes the dilemma many influencers face, torn between their digital and personal identities. Naud's character CW has far more than meets the eye to keep audiences hooked with her riveting persona. Beyond the adrenaline-fueled narrative, INFLUENCER digs into deeper societal layers. Unabashedly flaunting her birthmark, CW is a beacon of self-acceptance, challenging conventional beauty norms.
INFLUENCER is uniquely positioned in this new subgenre, spotlighting the influencer culture's often-ignored darker aspects. This story blends horror and thriller, grounded by a compelling plot, strong performances, and beautiful cinematography. Despite its straightforward premise, it provides a thought-provoking narrative that pushes audiences to scrutinize social media’s glitzy exterior.
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[photo courtesy of SHUDDER]