Written by: Matt Patti | September 1st, 2021
Superhost (Brandon Christensen, 2021) 3 out of 4 stars.
In this virtual age, some YouTube personalities will do anything to get views. Many of them venture into creepy places, perform risky stunts, and do some of the craziest things just to gain fame. Even those that start out as genuine and have a focus on their channel may become impatient with their growth and try something drastic for more clicks. Even when in clear and present danger, those desperate enough for popularity will keep the cameras rolling. In director Brandon Christensen’s horror flick Superhost, he explores this craze of internet fame and how far people will really go to get famous.
In the film, a young couple, Teddy (Osric Chau) and Claire (Sara Canning) run a YouTube channel called “Superhost.” The travel vloggers rent out many beautiful vacation homes and film their experiences; they document their stays in detail, giving their opinions and leaving reviews after the fact on their show. Unfortunately, though, times are tough, money is tight, and they’re losing subscribers. Their latest trip is to visit a home in the mountains owned by a host named “BettyLou52.” Upon arrival, they find that their host is neither Betty, nor Lou, but a young woman named Rebecca (Gracie Gillam). Something immediately seems a bit off about her, as she’s overly friendly—to a creepy fault—and seems a bit too invested in Teddy and Claire’s stay. In order to keep their channel relevant, though, Teddy and Claire ignore the strange behavior and try their hardest to create their best episode yet. Will it all be worth it in the end?
Director Christensen (Z) does a great job of showcasing the life of YouTubers in this film. Teddy likes to just be himself in videos: charismatic, fun-loving, and positive. Claire follows suit and reaches a similar level of energy, but when the cameras turn off she is colder and more calculated, taking on more of a business-minded role and determined to do whatever it takes to get more views. Teddy and Claire are relying on their channel for income, and therefore become quite desperate in their search for content. Their struggles have a negative impact on their relationship, as well. They seem like the dream couple on camera but in real life they are far from the perfect duo fans think they know, as they confront several relatable issues many couples face.
As much as Teddy and Claire’s life keeps the viewer invested, the real showstopper of the film is Gracie Gillam as Rebecca. Unsettling, awkward, and above all terrifying, Gillam steals every scene she’s in and delivers one of the best performances of a bona fide lunatic that I’ve ever seen. Any time Rebecca is on screen, the atmosphere becomes increasingly tense. However, Gillam also brings an absurd hilarity to Rebecca’s character, making the audience question whether they should be shivering or laughing at her insanity. The film as a whole excels at catching the audience off guard and leaving them unsure how to feel about certain situations and outcomes. This works mostly to the film’s benefit, though there are some loose ends that are never quite explained and some horribly stupid decisions made by some of the characters that don’t add up.
Overall, Superhost is an entertaining thrill ride full of dark humor, suspense, and absurdity. The film has a few cheap jump scares but still manages to nonetheless achieve a frightening atmosphere and has some intense moments near the end. The film also offers some unanticipated twists and shocking choices along the way that keep the viewer engaged and the conclusion unpredictable. In the end, Superhost will make many audience members think twice before booking a vacation in a complete stranger’s house.