I Am A Channel (2024) Review
I Am A Channel is the latest film to centre around social media, the rise of “influencer culture” and its darker side. From satires such as Clickbait to an endless stream of horror films like Spree and The Cleansing Hour to oddities like We Are All Going to the World’s Fair, it’s a booming field. Somewhat surprisingly, Director Brian Wiebe (Monster Flu, Cancer Treatment) and co-writer/star Christine Vrem-Ydstie (Actress, I Don’t Care) have found an interesting new twist on the theme.
Heidi (Christine Vrem-Ydstie) is an influencer. Actually, her name is Joanna, and the pseudonym is the least inauthentic thing about her videos she records and streams for her fans, or as she calls them, Tiger Lilies. Much of the film’s first half is a contrast of those videos and the image they project, contrasted with her actual existence. A video hyping essential oils that allegedly make cavities fill themselves in and cure Alzheimer’s delivered with a side of anti-medical conspiracy theories is interrupted by her boyfriend Rian (Ryan Imhoff, Fresh Hell, Wilt) asking where the Ambien is.
We also see her making a patently phony apology video, like so many real life influencers. And that is similar to her real life as her other job is running phone scams promising to get people money left to them by distant, read fictitious, relatives for a modest fee of course.
Somewhere around the halfway point, Heidi/Joanna and I Am A Channel take a weird swerve when she has a drug induced hallucination and becomes convinced she has mystic powers. Rather than just having a channel, she tells her Tiger Lilies she has been chosen to be a channel to a divine being. Overnight, she’s gone from promoting The Guru Cleanse to promoting herself as a guru.
And when you consider the relationship between some of these influencers and their followers, becoming a cult leader really isn’t that big a step. It’s just trading one scam for another, and I Am A Channel nails it as we watch her selling magic dirt and her own special blend of Kratom. By the end, the film has segued off into a shot at cults, as Heidi is banging away at a drum and telling her drugged out followers to denounce their families.
Wiebe and Vrem-Ydstie have crafted a solid and all too accurate look at the dark side of influencers. I don’t want to say all of them are like Heidi, but you just have to read the news to see the number of them who have ended up in jail or dead for practising things much different from what they preached. Or who got other people killed by convincing them to ignore facts and buy into some line of highly profitable bullshit.
Where I Am A Channel falls a bit short is the rather abrupt ending. We see this loud ritual, which would have had the neighbours complaining, which could have been an amusing interlude, and the film just ends. There’s no sense of whether or not she’s found personal satisfaction, if this is just another con. And perhaps most importantly if they’re one capsule of Kratom away from a mass, well maybe not mass it’s more like a small group, suicide.
The script needed to get to her transformation sooner and let that aspect develop more. And as it did give Rian’s character some detailing as well. He’s the only other character in the film beside Heidi/Joanne, but he’s pretty much a blank. Which takes away from the scenes of her drugging and brainwashing him into being her first disciple. Knowing more about what he felt and believed versus what she was getting him to believe would have greatly amplified those scenes.
Overall, I Am A Channel is an effective drama about manipulation and the dangers of both social media and religion. It’s not all serious though and has several moments of satire that had me chuckling. It’s also a good example of what an indie film can deliver with two talented actors, one location, two if you count a short scene in a park, and a well written script.
I Am A Channel is available on Tubi. You check the film’s website for more information.