Sometimes a horror movie can be very good at what it does but still not be especially scary. We had a higher-profile example of that in last week’s Candyman, but on a smaller scale, we have this week’s curiosity Superhost. A pair of travel vloggers, Teddy (Osric Chau) and Claire (Sara Canning), specialize in going to especially nice vacation rental homes and reviewing them for their channel (also called “Superhost”) and its fairly sizable viewership. Claire is worried their following is shrinking because they aren’t as interesting as they once were; it seems the couple peaked when they had a confrontation with one of their hosts after a bad experience at her property, to which they gave a terrible review and ultimately caused her to go out of business.
Their latest trip is to a beautiful house in the woods (so stunning that Teddy plans to propose at an especially picturesque spot nearby), which is owned by an eccentric host named Rebecca (Gracie Gillam), who is always underfoot, dealing with minor repairs and hoping that these shortcomings don’t negatively impact the pair’s review. Although the vloggers love the house, they do notice some strange things that don’t quite make sense, like the number of security cameras (seemingly in every room) and strange sounds in the night or things moving around in the woods at all hours of the evening. Claire realizes that their final video would be extremely enhanced with a one-on-one interview with Rebecca, who doesn’t disappoint them with her quirky behavior and strange stories about previous renters who simply didn’t want to leave.
Things get somewhat amped up when the previously mentioned former host (played by the great Barbara Crampton) shows up after attempting to shut down the couple’s website by lodging a complaint. But Rebecca steps in and defends her tenant in an act of unexpected, above-and-beyond kindness. It isn’t until deep in the relatively short film that the truth of the situation is revealed and blood starts to flow, but admittedly those are some of the best scenes in Superhost.
What the film gets almost painfully right is the vlogging behavior and mentality. Teddy and Claire mimc overly enthusiastic YouTuber types so perfectly that you almost forget this isn’t a real channel. Written and directed by Brandon Christensen (Still/Born), you have to give the movie credit for tapping into the online hosts’ obsession with delivery, camera angles, and what would make the best clickbait for the channel, given it’s desperate need to bump up its viewership. Gillam’s performance is almost cringe-worthy at times, with her overplaying the “Ah, shucks” vibe of Rebecca, who is clearly hiding a great deal of her guests. But when she’s allowed to cut loose in the final act, I appreciated her contributions to the movie a great deal more.
Despite ample amounts of blood and a few tense sequences, Superhost isn’t especially scary or atmospherically creepy, and perhaps that’s intentional. But there are enough attempts at actual horror moments that I think it’s more a failing of the screenplay. Having Crampton come in, even for just a couple of scenes, and be able to tear into these millennial brats greatly improves the film, especially for those of us who barely grasp the concept of influencers. It’s a highly watchable work, for sure, but don’t anticipate any big scares to give you nightmares when you sleep.
The film is now streaming on Shudder.
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