This is an effective, twisting tale that’s clearly better if you can approach it with the same lack of awareness or expectation as I did, as it pulls one rug out from under the viewer after the first act and then keeps spinning off in unpredictable new directions. It’s smartly crafted, well-written, and strongly performed. I’m not sure it works as social media commentary, but it undeniably clicks as an entertaining thriller about someone who thinks the Insta-world is shallow enough to hide her sociopathic behavior. Do you think living online is dangerous? There are still some real dangers out there in the real world, too.
At first, “Influencer” feels like it’s going to play out like a social media era “Hostel,” a tale of someone trying to turn international travel into views who discovers that there are dangerous corners of the world that aren’t seen on TikTok. And yet there’s melancholy in Emily Tennant’s performance that hints at something deeper from the very beginning. She plays Madison, someone who has become famous on Instagram largely just by being herself but seems to have trouble maintaining her smile when she’s not filming. She poses, takes pics of her food, and has probably made a fortune pushing free products as an influencer. She’s certainly made enough to support her travel, which has taken her to gorgeous Thailand, filmed with an effective blend of beauty and menace by cinematographer David Schuurman. Yes, it’s beautiful, but it also looks like someplace where a woman traveling alone could get lost and never be seen again.
It’s slowly revealed that Madison wasn’t supposed to be solo. She was going to travel with her boyfriend Ryan (Rory J. Saper), but the relationship hit some speedbumps before the trip, leading her to come alone. When a drunk ex-pat hits on Madison at the resort bar, CW (Cassandra Naud) swoops in to save the day, and the two become instant friends. CW knows the area, taking Madison to cool bars around town. But savvy viewers watching a movie on a service like Shudder will notice that CW doesn’t like to be included in Madison’s photo posts and looks suspiciously after Madison when she discovers that her room was robbed, and her passport stolen. Now Madison will have to stay at least two weeks before she can get a new one. What could go wrong?