What to Watch Verdict
'Superhost' welcomes horror into the sweetest of homes through a remarkably maniacal performance by Gracie Gillam that is a killer marquee attraction.
🏠 Seriously, you'll love Gracie Gillam.
🏠 Once the dam breaks, it's a gush of crazy.
🏠 Minimalist, but well cast.
🏠 There's a gore hit that's a bit rough.
🏠 More downbeats than highs.
🏠 Displays its restrictions.
“I’m not a hero; I’m a vlogger.”
As societal behaviors alter, horror titles such as Superhost evolve with the vulnerabilities of modern allowances. The same way Dave Franco capitalizes on Airbnb tragedy in The Rental, or Eugene Kotlyarenko turns rideshares into a rampage in Spree, writer and director Brandon Christensen exploits the dependability of five-star trustworthiness. We filter glowing reviews on vacation planning services and immediately assume ultimate safety—Superhost preys upon the deranged scenario of shacking in randomly listed homes that goes against “strangers with candy” warnings. Add a dash of YouTube narcissism, and Christensen generates an edgy indie satire that’s sincerely psychotic and yet comparable across video blogger channels driven by traffic, drama, and the thirst for one killer shot that’ll make you famous.
Teddy (Osric Chau) and Claire (Sara Canning) are another characteristically outgoing YouTube couple who run “Superhost,” a web series that rates the best of the best rental homes. Their latest excursion brings them to the “Sugar” house, owned and operated by hostess extraordinaire Rebecca (Gracie Gillam). Claire stresses over the energy in their videos and catchiness of their content as viewership continues to plummet, while Teddy attempts to keep their relationship afloat. Unfortunately, these distractions allow Rebecca’s helicopter personality quirks to go somewhat unchecked during their stay until security codes start fritzing or interviews get uncomfortably awkward.
The problem with internet profiles? You never know who you’re really dealing with until it’s too late.
Christensen’s previous work on Z and Still/Born exudes more haunting polishes—a presumed side effect of working with minimal casted actors and pandemic conditions. Superhost is more a “camera in the woods” production than the abject horror abilities of Z or Still/Born, but still manages its imposed restraints better than other quarantine productions. The narrative only calls for two always-charged, effusively fake YouTube personas and the “Superhost” who glitches in and out of sanity. It’s authentic in its isolation, which becomes this opinionated tar-black comedy about the unspoken dangers of Airbnb models.
Since Superhost is a Shudder exclusive, you’re correct to assume there’s a horror bend but don’t expect anything remotely suspenseful as even The Rental. For a relatively long duration, fear-striking tension amounts to Teddy’s hush-hush engagement plans or sluggish upload speeds. Osric Chau and Sara Canning aren’t charting unmapped waters with their workaholic vlogger partners as arguments about clickbait interrupt sweeter moments of affection. However, their banter remains well-acted enough to sustain the barebones destination hiccups. Teddy's too obsessed with cat graphic overlays or Claire's monopolized by faulty bans to question the multiple security cameras, a “Do Not Enter” sign on the basement door, and other freaky-creepy red flags.
As someone present for Logan Paul's rise across Vine and YouTube, I can’t say there’s anything unbelievable on screen.
I was tickled to find Christensen sought inspiration from Patrick Brice’s Creep—the Mark Duplass online advertisement murderer flick—because Rebecca’s full-throttle breakout is the film’s ultimate attraction. Gracie Gillam licks her lips at the opportunity to create her own “Peachfuzz” mythology because there’s no hidden trajectory behind Superhost. Barbara Crampton appears as “That Bitch” from Teddy and Clarie’s past, wigging out as a former Superhost they trashed publicly, but never claims herself the primary antagonist. Gillam embraces the wide-eyed, programming-error instability that makes Rebecca an entrancing maniac. Her screeches into the camera while chasing Teddy or Claire—because Superhost is partly screen life horror—will instigate giggle fits despite the deathly scenario. Gillam is an expert-level madwoman who uses Broadway theatrics and sunshiny smiles to mask a ruthless, emotionless slasher despite Rebecca’s champagne-bubble exterior presence (even when speckled and soaked by blood spatter).
Superhost isn’t definitively flashy, and gore effects—as scant as they are—suffer from quick-draw editing when thrust into close-up cinematography reveals. Brandon Christensen takes the down-and-dirty approach to independent horror that’s heavily reliant on performances, even with location glamor—generously donated by the Curkos family as per a special credits thanks—and its beautiful window arrangements or spiral staircase around what looks like a Paper Birch tree. It’s admittedly nothing groundbreaking in terms of technical trickery or character dynamics, but that’s alright given Gracie Gillam’s boisterous, impressionist villainy once Rebecca’s handywoman facade fades away. Gilliam is the reason Superhost shines at its battiest and nastiest, as Christensen favors bleakness that’s such a winning contrast to the film’s prior mundanity—that’s how you stick a landing, aspiring filmmakers.
Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.
Thank you for signing up to Whattowatch. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.