For better or worse, it’s a bit of a wonder that mainstream horror hasn’t more heavily used the online world as a springboard for stories of obsession and fear. The parts are so clearly apparent — invisible tormentors and stalking catfishers, the tension of a notification chime — especially after watching “Influencer,” a thriller about a mysterious woman who targets online influencers as they post throughout vacation getaways.
After Madison (Emily Tennant), an Instagram influencer traveling in Thailand, is left waiting for her boyfriend, Ryan (Rory J. Saper), at a resort, a woman named CW (Cassandra Naud) befriends her and shows her around town. Eventually, things turn awry for Madison as she falls into CW’s creepy online game, and Ryan, arriving in Thailand soon after, becomes wrapped up in the web.
There is something in here poking at the unsightly truths about parasocial relationships in the digital age, but the director Kurtis David Harder (who wrote the screenplay alongside Tesh Guttikonda) avoids contorting the film into an overt social thriller, instead prioritizing frights and twists. That’s mostly a wise decision, but the film is left feeling a tad thin — in its explorations of both its larger ideas and its characters and their motivations (most of all, the story leaves too much blank space in CW’s origins).
Even so, 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.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes. Watch on Shudder.