The social media age lends itself well to the horror-thriller genre, but most films turn out to be a shallow, cautionary tale about the toxicity that comes from our narcissistic desire for more fan engagement and obsession with accruing “likes.” That’s not the case with “Influencer,” a creative and fresh take on movies set in the TikTok and Instagram era. Director and co-writer Kurtis David Harder‘s film embraces the online influencer culture with a project that has shades of “Single White Female” and “Sissy,” and it’s filled with enough psychological suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Madison (Emily Tennant) is a popular social media influencer who planned a lavish trip to Thailand with her boyfriend Ryan (Rory J Saper), who bailed at the last minute. Determined to save her vacation, she heads to the country alone and films videos for her loyal followers, making it seem like she’s have a much better time than she actually is. One night at the hotel bar, she meets CW (Cassandra Naud), a fearless and knowledgeable traveler who offers to take Madison under her wing and show her the most Instagram-worthy locations around. They develop a quick friendship, bonding over food, drinks, and the love of adventure. Things seem to be looking up for Madison until CW takes her for a surprise overnight camping visit to a deserted island that’s completely off the grid.

Instead of the typical story of a man preying on a woman traveling alone, in this scenario it’s a female (which somehow makes her feel more trustworthy). You aren’t concerned for Madison’s safety at first, because CW seems like a really cool, friendly person. Once you begin to feel uneasy about her intentions, it’s already too late. The script, which Harder co-wrote with Tesh Guttikonda, is clever but never annoying, and the narrative goes to as many unexpected places as it does familiar. Although the premise can sometimes feel like something you’ve seen before, the story has enough natural and unforced surprises to keep you guessing and engaged.

A major part of the reason the film works so well is that the story seems plausible and realistic, and the performances from the cast are terrific. Naud is unsettling as a genuine psychopath who is a master of manipulation, and Tennant and Sara Canning as social media superstars are extremely believable in their roles. Harder is a skilled director who handles the material well, and he understands the cinematic language of the thriller.

Some of the best parts of “Influencer” are also the most unexpected, so I have actively avoided revealing too many spoilers in this review. The film offers a chilling look at our natural insecurities, arrogance, and conceit when it comes to our online presence, but it also is a really fun horror-thriller that’s exceptionally satisfying.

By: Louisa Moore

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