Influencer (2022)
September 19, 2023 6:37 AM - Subscribe

Social media influencer Madison is lonely and bored during a solo vacation in Thailand until she meets CW, who takes her under her wing and becomes her tour guide and friend. But then CW's plans for Madison take a darker turn.

Background Information and Critical Reception

Influencer is a 2022 American psychological horror film directed by Kurtis David Harder, who co-wrote the movie with Tesh Guttikonda. It stars Emily Tennant, Cassandra Naud, Rory J. Saper and Sara Canning.

Influencer had its world premiere on October 16, 2022 at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. The film went on to screen at other film festivals and was picked up by the streaming service Shudder, which released the movie as one of its Shudder Originals in May 2023.

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 92% of 49 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7/10. The website's consensus reads: "Influencer should get plenty of likes from horror fans hungry for a smart, scary chiller with something to say." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 66 out of 100, based on 6 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Brandon Yu of The New York Times wrote, "Harder has made good and entertaining use of a premise that could have become a simple gimmick, and Naud and Saper prove strong leads as their characters try to read each other between the likes." Phil Hoad of The Guardian gave the film 3/5 stars, calling it a "smartly arranged thriller" and writing, "Harder and co-writer Tesh Guttikonda don't delve beneath the skin of their characters enough to fully flesh out their critique and bring Influencer into full psychological thriller territory... But the four-part shuffle keeps it lively, and Naud is an imposing black hole." Noel Murray of the Los Angeles Times said the film "has the same kind of crafty plot as a Patricia Highsmith novel, taking audiences so deep inside the machinations of not-so-nice people that we're left wondering where our sympathies should lie."


CW's birthmark is not a makeup effect. Actress Cassandra Naud was born with a large nevus under her right eye.

The opening credits do not start until more than twenty-six minutes into the story.
posted by orange swan (4 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This quote from above, "Harder and co-writer Tesh Guttikonda don't delve beneath the skin of their characters enough to fully flesh out their critique and bring Influencer into full psychological thriller territory... But the four-part shuffle keeps it lively, and Naud is an imposing black hole." sums up my thoughts pretty well.

I thought the movie was pretty solid, and I enjoyed following CW's cat and mouse games, but it had more potential in there. They touched lightly on other ideas of influence, and I wish they'd developed that theme more. I liked that CW was a cypher, but fleshing out the other players would've been nice. Still, it's a fun thriller, and I'd recommend it.
posted by mrphancy at 7:22 AM on September 19, 2023

I agreed with that reviewer too. The movie was fun and enjoyable as it was due to the plotting, but more character and thematic development would have given it more depth and resonance.

I'm not sure I buy that CW would have been able to physically overpower both Jessica and Ryan, but must admit that both murder scenes were choreographed in a fairly plausible way.

I never assumed that Madison was dead, and after Jessica and Ryan were eliminated, figured she would be alive and would be the one to give CW her comeuppance, so the movie while satisfyingly twisty on the whole, wasn't totally unpredictable. The guy at the bar mentioned that it was the rainy season, and Madison said during the campfire scene that she had been in the Girl Guides growing up, so she would have been able to survive for awhile by drinking rainwater and potentially would have had the wilderness skills to forage for food. Also I think she would likely have found those two graves and would have surmised from them that CW would eventually be returning to bury her body, or with another influencer, which would have kept her from succumbing to despair.

I liked the delineation between Madison and Jessica. They had a very similar look and did exactly the same thing for a living, so the script might have treated them as interchangeable cookie cutter characters, but it's made clear that Jessica is tougher, more narcissistic, and less open-hearted than Madison. Madison is open to accepting CW as a friend and an equal, and even admires her for her savoir faire, but Jessica will only accept CW as a sycophant and is quick to suspect her.

Ryan likewise gets a few but definite character traits. Like Philip Seymour Hoffman's character Freddy in The Talented Mr. Ripley, he's a douchebag, but he also has a certain honesty and shrewdness and enough genuine care for Madison to realize there's something going on, though he's not quite enough on the ball to keep from winding up dead. He should have gone to the police with his concerns instead of assuming he could deal with CW by himself.

It was so weird that there were so few extras in this movie. It gives the ugly impression that Thailand is populated only by white tourists and locals working in subservient positions, and that all the characters visiting there see it only in those terms.

CW's grin as she watches Madison drive away in the boat was interesting. Was she simply ruefully amused that she'd been outsmarted in her own game and caught in her own trap by a woman she'd underestimated, or does she know a way of getting off the island? It wouldn't surprise me if, knowing the area as she does, she's aware that there's populated land close enough to the island for her to swim to it. While Madison will go straight to the police when she gets back to the mainland, CW may not be there when the authorities arrive at the island.

However, she'll now be wanted for at least four murders (Jessica, Ryan, the two graves on the island) plus a string of other crimes, the police will be able to get that photo of her that Ryan posted online even though she deleted it, and they will probably be able to figure out her true identity, so I think she'll be caught and go to prison for life eventually. She's not actually that good at crime and has mostly been able to escape the attention of the authorities by flying under the radar in a way that will not be possible now.
posted by orange swan at 10:14 AM on September 19, 2023

Er... Why does the graphic up there say "Plastic Bitches"? Is that an alternative title or something?

This is one of those movies I'll never see but was intrigued enough about to read the Wiki summary. Based on that, I couldn't tell who the actual protagonist of the film was. It seems like we follow Madison for a while but then CW shows up and kind of takes over the story as an anti-hero, with Madison gone until the end. Or, maybe the main focus is on Ryan? It sounds like Jessica shows up too late for lead character status.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:54 PM on September 20, 2023

"Plastic Bitches" seems to be an alternate title for the movie. If you click on the link, it goes to the imdb page for Influencer.

I never rooted for CW, but it was interesting watching her wheel and deal and think on her feet when she met with unexpected obstacles. Madison's the only likable person in the cast of characters (there's not much to her, but she seems decent enough), so she was the one I rooted for.
posted by orange swan at 5:01 PM on September 20, 2023

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