We can expect the unexpected from writer, producer, editor, and director Kurtis David Harder in his latest thriller, Influencer. Co-written by Tesh Guttikonda, the film isn't just another commentary on the toxicity of social media, the dangers of mindlessly scrolling manufactured feeds, or the dangers that influencers pose by pushing products and the image of perfection to impressionable young women, teens, and children. It's an insightful view into the mind of a manipulative and sophisticated psychopath with a serious grudge.
Madison (Emily Tennant) is a naive tourist in Thailand, succumbing to an advanced state of dissolution with her life as a social media influencer. Although she's effortlessly convinced her Instagram followers that she's enjoying her travels, she's become lonely. When she meets a fellow traveler (Cassandra Naud), she is renewed and energized by her new companion's carefree independence. Little does Madison know that her new friend has a dark and diabolical plan to prove to her that she isn't the story's lead.
"You'll slowly fade into obscurity, and like all the other girls, no one's going to come looking for you. You'll cease to exist — gradually rotting away as the sand crabs eat your flesh."
Depravity takes center stage when the opening credits begin to roll as the first act closes, creating a clever upheaval of our expectations. Harder's central villain views the lives of social media influencers as we all do—through a screen that only allows for a glimpse of who a person actually is. We see the side that is curated for public consumption, but CW (Naud) is clouded by assumptions, envy, and rage toward women she views as entitled and unworthy of their followers. She stalks her prey through the streets of Thailand, using their social media vices to shadow in restaurants and down dark alleyways. Once she's hooked her target, her glaring fault is not knowing when to let it go.
Naud's portrayal of the smart, alluring, and disarming Black Widow with a unique penchant for devouring beautiful young women on social media pedestals is envigorating and deliciously disturbed. Influencer is a subtly sexy thriller with a clever subversion of the traditional Black Widow trope. Instead of a female feeding off the mental, physical, and material means of men and leaving them for dead, our villain preys on the women who've built their empires, however well-intentioned, by preying on our insecurities.