Influencer (2022) Movie Review – The Best Influencer Themed Horror?
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.
Welcome to Knockout Horror. We are continuing with our Summer Scares theme today as we review Shudder Original social media themed horror movie Influencer from 2022. We have beautiful beaches, gorgeous locations and selfies in the sun in this intriguing little thriller. The only thing is, everybody has already talked to death about it. Meaning I am real late to the party.
In fact, the only reason I am even covering this is to continue a theme I have been working on this year. And to promote some of the lesser known social media influencer movies I have covered. I guess you could call Influencer “List Bait” but everyone loves lists, right? They have an important place in searching for your next favourite horror movie and are easily digestible.
With that in mind, I’ll introduce you to Knockout Horror’s most recent list – Movies With Similar Themes to Influencer – 15 Horror Movies Ranked. Rolls off the tongue, right? In this list we take a look at 15 movies that share similar social media themes to Influencer. There’s some great movies on the list and some real bad ones. So if you enjoy Influencer, why not take a look?
Not Just List Bait!
That doesn’t mean that Influencer is only good for promoting lists, though. This is actually a fantastic movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. Following the story of a social media influencer heading for a vacation in Thailand. Only to meet a mysterious girl who seems to bring along with her a world of uninhibited leisure and dark turmoil. Influencer plays out in a way that you might not expect.
I am not going to lie. With this being a Shudder Original I was a little concerned. Shudder Originals are a lot like Tubi Originals. Only, instead of apologising for how bad they are like Tubi does. Shudder rifles through your pockets and takes whatever spare change you have in there before leaving with a wry wink and a smile. I wasn’t hoping for much, to be honest. Luckily, I was surprised.
Naturally, the best way to go into this movie is with a complete lack of any kind of knowledge of the plot. It’s one of those horror movies that thrives on the unexpected. Meaning that any spoilers would really undermine your enjoyment of the story. With that in mind, I am going to go out of my way to not reveal too much.
Another Social Media Horror?
I have covered a bunch of Social Media Influencer themed horror movies on this site. In fact, I have already put together a list – 10 Social Media Influencer Horror Movies – Dying for Likes. In an attempt to tap in to the current social zeitgeist. Horror movie writers are, increasingly, basing their movies around social media. Whether it be online bullying, obsessions with documenting every second of the character’s lives online, or influencers in general. It is a theme that is growing in popularity all the time.
The problem with this is that so many of these movies feel too similar. They all approach the subject in the same way. We are expected to root for a completely self obsessed and unlikable person who won’t ever put their phone away. All while a group of their equally vapid and uninteresting friends are murdered one by one. Very few movies actually manage to mix this formula up. Whereas movies like Sissy and Deadstream flip the script a little. There are far too many movies like Shook and Followers that do absolutely nothing new with the theme.
Influencer Starts Off Very Familiar
I’m not going to lie, I was worried for a minute when I started watching Influencer. The movie kicks off with the dull and rather obnoxious Madison (Emily Tennant) snapping selfies and cruising for likes on her social media profile. She visits different, beautiful, locations. Eats expensive food and sips on premium drinks. All the while never taking in a second of what is going on around her. Her singular focus being to up the views and project an image of somebody living large and loving every minute of it.
It’s all too familiar. A small part of me wondered whether this was going to be yet another dull social media themed horror movie. The fact that Influencer’s opening credits don’t roll until nearly 26 minutes in is indicative of how this is a movie with a distinctly split personality. The initial presentation of Madison and her self obsessed personality is starkly in contrast to what happens after the credits roll. Wiping a bead of nervous sweat from my brow. It was hard not to raise a smile knowing that director Kurtis Harder had something different in mind for Influencer. And thank God that he did.
Influencer Feels Very Fresh
Once those first dull, and all too familiar, segments are out of the way. Influencer reveals itself to be a compelling and original take on the social media influencer theme. Harder goes out of his way to circumvent expectation at practically every turn. Crafting a movie that is both thrilling and fun. Influencer offers up a different perspective on the personalities that haunt social media in much the same way as Sissy does.. Presenting events from a different point of view and creating an antagonist that is sinister, devious, and a tremendous amount of fun.
Influencer frames social media in an almost satirical manner. Acting as something of a commentary on the prosthetic, plastic, nature of people online. It is witty and biting in its presentation of influencers. Hitting on all the usual cliches and observations that you would expect. While also highlighting the nature in which people are manipulated by influencers. And how the influencers can be manipulated, in turn.
Seeing so much of the movie from the antagonist’s point of view goes some way to creating something of an antihero. A character that you almost, inadvertently, get behind purely due to how obnoxious the victims are. Influencer takes that old fashioned feeling of rooting for Jason as he kills a bunch of annoying summer camp denizens. And brings it right up to date. Replacing the annoying teenagers with even more annoying influencers in their thirties. Harder was a producer on Superhost. A movie that is similar in its approach to character portrayals. I hope he brings more of the same to the table in future. We need more villains like this in horror.
More of a Thriller Than a Horror
It does have to be pointed out that Influencer is more of a thriller than anything. There really isn’t a tremendous amount of horror or, even, gore to speak of. There’s an old fashioned 80’s thriller like tension at the heart of this movie. With events being pushed forward with an ever present sense of twitchiness and unease that never lets up for a second. Characters are paranoid and nervous. Leading to a continuous trust and distrust cycle that helps keep you engaged with what is going on.
Influencer is a little strange in the fact that it is predictable while remaining open ended. Meaning there a lot of possible directions that the story could go in. But the narrative often takes the path of least resistance. That’s not a massive detriment to the movie, though. There are still parts that had me guessing and I still felt compelled to keep on watching. The ending is easy to see coming which is something of a disappointment. But none of this hampers the movie in a major way. It is still very enjoyable.
I absolutely hated the sound production. This movie was a chore to sit through on a standard television. The musical score is about as marmite as they come and the mix is terrible. Voices are barely whispers requiring you to adjust the volume. Only for you to be blasted by an awful electronic pop track seconds later. It is legitimately annoying. The score dials in a little better later on in the movie. With a couple of scenes feeling almost 90’s cyber punk-esque. Due to the neon lights and techno music flanked scenes of characters travelling alone in a sea of people. But, by that point, I was already frustrated. I imagine most people will feel split on the soundtrack. Potentially finding it obstructive.
There isn’t a ton of background to the characters here. That is going to piss some people off. Characters lack clearly defined motivation and you have to work out their reasons for doing the things they do yourself. The script can be weak in parts and a few things happen that seem nonsensical. Influencer can be frustratingly predictable in parts, as well. Provoking a few eye rolls for how it refuses to take chances when it probably should. But it’s not a major problem as, for the most part, the movie does keep you guessing. I think a lot of people will struggle with just how completely unlikable the protagonists here are, as well.
Acting is Generally Decent
Influencer is a star making turn for Cassandra Naud, as CW. She is absolutely fantastic here. Portraying both sides of her character’s personality in an equally believable manner. While, also, seamlessly bringing to life the side of her character that is vulnerable and insecure. In much the same way as Gracie Gillam makes Superhost a much better movie. Naud does the same here with Influencer. She has a role in upcoming Christmas horror movie It’s a Wonderful Knife and I can’t wait to see more of her. She is simply great!
Emily Tennant is okay, as Madison, but lacks believability as an influencer. Again, like in so many other influencer themed movies. These movies seem to settle on “she is white with blue eyes and blonde hair”. Without actually addressing the fact that she has been towing 30 for the past few years and has absolutely no charisma. Madison is very hard to buy into as someone with a large social media presence. As is Jessica but Sara Canning seems to have a blast playing the character and is very good.
I’m really not sure about Rory Saper as Ryan. I can’t tell whether he is completely natural and far more comfortable than nearly everyone else. Or just a bit wooden. I am fairly sure he was actually just doing a really good job of creating a believable, normal, character. But I think some will see it as being wooden and a bit awkward. Cinematography is great. Influencer shows off a side of Thailand that is lesser seen in horror. We normally see the backstreets and seedy parts filled with questionable European tourists and backpackers. The side we see here is stunningly beautiful and full of opulence. The scenery will take your breath away in parts.
Final Thoughts and Score
In the title, I posed the question of whether this is the best social media influencer horror movie. I would probably say it is top three along with Sissy and Deadstream. Influencer is a fun movie that presents a unique story that could have been all too familiar. Taking the subject of influencers and flipping the focus on its head. This is a genuinely enjoyable film that keeps you guessing and features an absolutely fantastic villain. It has some flaws but nothing too major. It’s just a great horror movie that goes out of its way to circumvent expectation. A definite recommend if you have a Sudder subscription.
Trailer: Influencer (2022)
|Release Date:||18th May 2023|
|Movie Type:||Horror, Thriller|
|Movie Length:||92 Min|
|Starring:||Emily Tennant, Cassandra Naud, Rory J. Saper, Sara Canning|
|Directed By:||Kurtis David Harder|
|Written By:||Tesh Guttikonda, Kurtis David Harder|
|Produced By:||Jack Campbell, Brandon Christensen, Tesh Guttikonda, Kurtis David Harder, Micah Henry|
|Parental Guidance:||Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Language|