While struggling on a solo backpacking trip in Thailand, social media influencer Madison meets CW, who travels with ease and shows her a more uninhibited way of living, but CW’s interest in her takes a darker turn.

Editing: Rob Grant, Kurtis David Harder
Avery Kentis

Cast: Cassandra Naud, Emily Tennant, Sara Canning, Rory J Saper, Paul Spurrier, Justin Sams

Directors: Kurtis David Harder
Writers: Kurtis David Harder, Tesh Guttikonda
Cinematography: David Schuurman

I wonder if the director and co-writer of Influencer, Kurtis David Harder knew the meta-reaction the title of his film Influencer would have. Admittedly, the title of the film had me thinking that it would be a reasonably straightforward film, where some influencer gets in trouble in Thailand because they’re too busy filming, and the moral of the story would be about taking in the real world around you, or something like that. I’ve seen it before. However, much like you shouldn’t judge a film by its title, you shouldn’t always judge someone by the way they look or act either. 

Madison (Emily Tennant) is in Thailand on holiday by her. She was supposed to be there with her boyfriend Ryan (Rory J. Saper), but he’s busy elsewhere. Madison is enjoying the influencer lifestyle: posing for pictures with products by the pool, big smiles, to break and be bored as soon as she posts the image to Instagram. In her videos, she talks about enjoying the wonders of Thailand, loving travel and meeting new people, but she’s sitting by the hotel pool and may as well still be in the United States. All of this changes when she meets CW (Cassandra Naud), who sweeps Madison off her feet and shows her around Thailand in all the ways she’s been talking about. 

There’s something off about CW the moment she appears on screen, and if your “run girl” senses are tingling, you’re in the right. About 30 minutes into Influencer, the opening credits finally play, and the title card appears on the screen. What follows is a dark dive into the new world, what people can do with technology, and just the right amount of sick and twisted planning.

Cassandra Naud is utterly captivating as she moves between scenes as the appart social media hater with a fear of photographs but the most carefree attitude of anyone in Influencer. With this as Naud’s first significant role, it’s hopefully the first of many lead roles for her in the future, a true breakthrough performance.

Kurtis David Harder and Tesh Guttikonda have crafted a script in Influencer that subverts your expectations. This 90-minute thrill ride does lose some of its pacing in the middle, but it constantly had me wondering what would happen next and being surprised by the film’s direction. With a primarily female cast as well, and without the villain falling into “lover-scorned” territory, this is a must-watch for horror fans this year.

Influencer is available to stream on Shudder from 26/05.