With the number of horror movies taking aim at social media and its content creators, one has to wonder who actually likes these people. Earlier this year, Shudder took a shot at horror-infused subtext on viral culture with the shaky Shook. In fact, horror has a mixed tracked record on the subject. While The Hunt had plenty of bite, other social media horror movies – Deadcon, Antisocial, #FollowMe – wouldn’t likely inspire many subscriptions. Now Shudder has released writer and director Brandon Christensen’s latest effort – Superhost. And a small sample of critics have clicked ‘Like’ on this one.
As their travel vlog bleeds subscribers, Claire and boyfriend Teddy hope their latest Airbnb rental gives them the content they desperately need. Shortly after arriving, however, the couple realizes something isn’t quite right with their ‘superhost’, Rebecca. Overly eager to please, abrupt mood shifts, and prone to spacing out, Rebecca seems harmless enough. And Claire sees an opportunity to draw in viewers by shifting the vlog’s focus to their ‘crazy’ host. But as Rebecca’s becomes increasingly unhinged, Clair and Teddy realize they have more to worry about than going viral.
Superhost Overcomes Early Familiarity with a Mix of Shocks and Scares
To date, writer and director Brandon Christensen has turned in two impressive little horror movies – Z and Still/Born. Neither movie was necessarily original. Still Christensen injected each movie with scares, style, and substance. Similarly, Superhost will immediately feel familiar. Over the last few years, several horror movies have taken aim at social media and viral, likes-based culture. Just earlier this year, another Shudder original, Shook, tackled influencer subculture. But Superhost feels more spiritually related to found-footage thriller Creep. Though it’s not a found-footage movie, Superhost mixes in some of the subgenre features. And a strange character who behaviour gets stranger as the movie progresses feels tonally similar. Even the movie’s introduction of ‘Rebecca’ clearly borrows from Creep.
In addition, Superhost does a good job at ‘twisting the knife’ as it puts its vlogger couple in increasingly uncomfortable situations.
Fortunately, Christensen knows his way around scares and suspense. There’s more than a handful of suspenseful moments alongside a few good jumps. In addition, Superhost does a good job at ‘twisting the knife’ as it puts its vlogger couple in increasingly uncomfortable situations. Expect a couple of shockingly violent moments that incorporate excellent gore effects. Most importantly, Christensen includes a couple of genuine surprises in the movie’s third act. With its wickedly cruel ending, Superhost absolutely sticks its takedown of social media influencers.
Superhost Features a Fun Turn from its Villain
Much of Superhost’s appeal will likely hinge on how audiences feel about Gracie Gillam’s (Fright Night) performance. Initially, Gillam’s take on ‘Rebecca’ feels a bit too broad. It lacks Mark Duplass’ more subtle approach in Creep. Yet as Superhost uploads more of its story, Gillam shines with her manic performance. She creates a villain who is eccentric and menacing all at once. By the time the climax rolls around, Gillam convinces as the disturbed ‘superhost’ and steals the movie.
She creates a villain who is eccentric and menacing all at once.
As the vlogger couple, Sara Canning (Claire) and Osric Chau (Teddy) are surprisingly sympathetic despite playing characters who aren’t very likeable. In particular, Canning’s ‘Claire’ embodies a pretty cynical take on influencers. The fact that both Canning and Chau make you eventually care about their characters’ survival says something about the performances. Credit also goes to Christensen’s screenplay, which doesn’t leave either character as a two-dimensional spin on YouTube or TikTok personalities. Though it’s a small supporting role, Barbara Crampton (You’re Next, Jakob’s Wife) steals every bit of screentime in which she appears.
Superhost Subscribes to Some Fun Scares
As a horror director, Christensen isn’t mining the most original concepts for his movies. But once again the filmmaker crafts a very watchable and surprisingly effective thriller. Even if Superhost occasionally veers closely to the superior Creep, it nails its scares in what’s a tightly paced movie. Moreover, it’s one of the better attempts at skewering influencer subculture. And Gracie Gillam’s performance alone warrants a sequel.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B