Influencer Horror; Tastefully Psychosexual

The new film Influencer gets the influencer horror genre just right; how to make a modern-day psychosexual thriller; an engineer comes to Hollywood with plans to solve it; R.I.P. Julie Powell, who inspired Julie and Julia. Plus: A new look at the new Avatar. All in today’s Movie News Rundown.

Engineering Hollywood: When software engineer-turned-moviemaker Rao Meka first submitted his script to a big Hollywood producer, he received this feedback: I could not read it past 20 pages. It is atrocious. You do not know how to write a screenplay. You do not know what a screenplay is.” Did Rao give up? No, because he is an engineer, and engineers solve problems. Here’s the first of several pieces he’s writing for us about how he’s solving the problem of Hollywood. I adore this man.

Greetings: from Provo, Utah, where we’re attending FilmQuest, one of our 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee. Provo is a cool mountain town that feels simultaneously wholesome and subversive — I drank a mojito mocktail yesterday at the charming underground festival headquarters, The Social, while plotting and scheming with some incredibly creative filmmakers. I also saw some great movies.

Which Movies? Let’s start with Influencer, a movie about a woman who is, yes, an influencer. It lives up to the over-applied adjective Hitchcockian and is gorgeous to look at throughout, thanks to smashing cinematography and a Thai setting. Influencers are everywhere in horror these days, from Spree to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I think Influencer is the best of the influencer horror subgenre. It’s really skillfully done, with a starmaking performance by Cassandra Naud.

Coming Soon: Another influencer movie – this one a thriller — is Follow Her, which plays at the Austin Film Festival today and FilmQuest on Thursday. Did we say thriller? We meant psychosexual thriller. Here’s my talk with Follow Her director Sylvia Kaminer about avoiding the pitfalls of the genre.

‘Why the Hell Do You Want to Be in This Movie?’ Is the question Ti West says he asked everyone who appeared in X, his psycho, sexual horror film.

Congratulations: to the winners at the Naples International Film Festival! Alex Lehmann’s Acidman won the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature, Amy Bandlien Storkel and Bryan Storkel’s The Pez Outlaw won the Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature, and Audience Award winners included Balbinka Korzeniowska’s Playing Through for Best Narrative Feature and Eric Bendick’s Path of the Panther for Best Documentary Feature. Johanna Putnam’s Shudderbugs won both the Indie Spirit Award and the Rising Star Award.

R.I.P.: Julie Powell, the food writer whose blog the “Julie/Julia Project” inspired Nora Ephron’s final feature film, Julia & Julia, in which she was played by Amy Adams. Her husband told the New York Times that she died of cardiac arrest. She was only 49. Julie & Julia, released in 2009, earned Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination for her role as Julia Child. It was based on Powell’s book Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, published in 2005. She also wrote the 2009 book Cleaving: a Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession.

Avatar: The Way of Water Trailer: Here’s the trailer for the new film, featuring Sigourney Weaver as a 14-year-old boy. Hope you like the color blue.

Main image: Some clown in Follow Her