After reviewing the excellent Aussie horror comedy Sissy a few days ago. We checked out another decent comedy horror in the form of Deadstream. These two films had something in common. An influencer and Social Media theme. Now, I like to put together themed reviews every once in awhile. I actually didn’t intend to be going for an influencer theme, though. Strangely enough, I will be adding to that “theme” with today’s horror review. We are taking a look at Shudder Original Superhost.
This movie follows a social media influencer couple. Making their name by vlogging their stays at various holiday home rentals. The pair are losing viewers rapidly and need something more interesting. Something a little more captivating. With this in mind, they spend a few nights at the house of a crazily enthusiastic host. Eager to please, the pair seek to take advantage of their host’s quirky nature. Without further ado, let’s take a look. I always give a quick spoiler free breakdown. You can skip this if you like.
Superhost follows travel vlogging couple Claire (Sara Canning) and Teddy (Osric Chau). Rapidly losing followers, the pair need something to rekindle interest in their channel. They have recently quit their jobs to try and make a living off of vlogging. Surviving with help from Teddy’s parents, Claire is sick of handouts. Their next trip needs to be a big one. Luckily for them, their overenthusiastic host seems like the answer to their problems.
Rebecca (Gracie Gillam) rents out a holiday home that she inherited from her father. With Claire and Teddy staying, she is eager to earn a good review. In fact, she will do whatever it takes. Claire notices that Rebecca appears to be a somewhat eccentric personality. Her scatter brained nature and jovial disposition seem strange. Still, she might just be the solution to their problems.
Thinking they can capitalise on Rebecca’s quirkiness. The couple film an interview with her and aim to record more of her odd behaviour. Claire believes that the internet loves “weirdos” like these. It becomes clear, however, that there may be more to Rebecca than they realise. The cameras placed around the house suddenly seem more sinister than they initially thought.
As mentioned above. I really didn’t aim to specifically review a group of influencer themed horror movies. It sort of just happened. We ended up watching three over the period of a couple of days. It is interesting to me that it has taken this long for film-makers to jump on the trend. Sure, I have likely missed a few. Seeing a number of them featuring prominently on streaming services, however. It makes sense that people want to tap into this market.
Social Media is deeply entrenched in the every day, 2020’s, zeitgeist. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are an enormous part of many people’s lives. Along with platforms such as these come influencers. A twist on the celebrity personalities of previous generations. The influencer craze feels like a very modern day phenomenon. Influencers are able to reach into the living rooms of people in multiple ways. On your phone, in your social media feeds, on YouTube. They are widespread and exist in a range of different hobby and interest circles.
Seeking to promote lifestyles, products and experiences to their audience. Influencers portray themselves as having a connection with their viewers. This connection offers them a ready made group of people desperate to hang on their every word. They visit the same places that their favourite influencer visits. They copy their fashion style and use the same brands. Influencers leave the window to their everyday lives wide open. In return, people stare in, unable to avert their collective gaze. The result? A previously unheard of bond between minor celebrities and the public.
What happens when the love stops? How does someone cope when the public pulls their eyes away from that open window? Influencers are attention vampires. They feed off of people’s desire to worship them. When people stop caring, the money stops and the influencer feels insignificant.
Sissy expertly lampooned this mutually beneficial influencer/consumer relationship. Cecilia’s viewers needed her wise words and positivity. In turn, she needed the love of her followers to feel safe and secure. Deadstream highlighted the lengths an influencer will go to gain back that following. Shawn Ruddy’s primary desire was money. As the viewership waned, he began to feel unimportant. He was willing to face his biggest fears to recapture that popularity.
Superhost focuses on a pair of vloggers who are suffering a decline in viewership. When they arrive at their latest holiday hot spot. Claire’s sees an opportunity to take advantage of the quirky host Rebecca. Naturally Claire and Teddy have somewhat conflicted views on the ethics of this. Claire seems to be ruthless and willing to take advantage. Teddy wishes to play things straight and honest. Rebecca has other plans as we will see as the movie roles on.
The whole influencer thing makes for a fairly interesting premise. The YouTube video style presentation is easy to accomplish. The problem is, it gets old very quick. By the time Superhost came around, the theme felt very familiar. The movie opens with a vlog style intro, much like Deadstream. We are then hit with a barrage of highly stylised clips. Throw in scenes of Teddy editing the content and it is starts becoming exhausting. I’m not at all sure how people tolerate the influencer style of video. The overly peppy and histrionic mannerisms make for tough watching. Unfortunately, those are only some of Superhost’s issues.
This is a movie with two utterly dull main characters. Claire and Teddy are two of the unlikeliest people to achieve fame online. The two don’t even have the fortune of sharing half a personality between them. That’s without mentioning their negative chemistry. They really don’t fit the mould of social media personalities. They are very difficult to root for. Character development is virtually non-existent, as well. There is no hidden depth here. Teddy is a sappy individual that spends the movie following Claire with puppy dog eyes. Claire is a self obsessed asshole desperate to achieve money and notoriety.
As the movie goes on, we learn a little more about their history. Revelations about the pair’s recent vlog posts don’t add much. A side story with the potential to add intrigue falls completely flat. The dynamic between the two supposed lovers feels stilted. There really isn’t much to grab onto here. Caring about these characters is a difficult task. This wouldn’t be such a big problem if the movie succeeded in other ways. Herein lies another of Superhost’s problems.
This is a film that is really lacking in suspense or tension. For the most part, we are following the mundane lives of two boring people. They notice unusual things here and there. They make the occasional vlog, they go for walks, they laugh at the quirky host Rebecca. It’s all pretty dull stuff. A potential intruder during the night offers a little hope. Unfortunately, it fails to pay off the potential for decent horror scene building. You are left to, ultimately, question what exactly Superhost is trying to go for. Does it even want to be a horror movie?
Many of the events takes place in the daytime. A secluded house in the middle of the woods seems like a fantastic setting. Despite this, Brandon Christensen never manages to do anything with it. Why did he not place our characters in the woods at night? Why was the massive house not utilised better to create tension? Could we not have done more with the constant surveillance the pair were under? The characters never feel particularly at risk. They aren’t vulnerable for the most part.
The lack of tension and scares is a major disappointment. Superhost has a fairly compelling premise. For at least some of its length it really has you guessing. The vlogging aspect gives the characters a solid reason to stick around. Even when things start to get rough. I mean, they need those views, right? Despite this, the potential for some seriously taught scene setting is never realised.
Things only get worse as the movie hits its climax. Claire and Teddy are forced to make some ridiculous decisions just to offer some kind of threat. They run around like headless chickens. All before doing the one thing anyone in that situation wouldn’t do. It is real “scream at the TV” kind of stuff. Very frustrating and completely fatal to the horror aspect.
The scares feel woefully manufactured and completely ineffective. If the viewer actually gave a shit about these two people. They would be horribly frustrated at how dumb they both are. Luckily, most people won’t give a monkey’s toss about either of them. There is one character many viewers will care about, though. This character is, without question, the best part of Superhost.
If Superhost does nothing else right. It absolutely nails antagonist Rebecca. Played by Gracie Gillam, Rebecca is fantastic. She is an Annie Wilkes for the modern generation. It actually pains me that Superhost is such an average movie. Rebecca deserves to be in a much better film. Coming across, initially, as a somewhat quirky lady that is eager to please. As the film goes on we learn more about our super host. Having apparently inherited her house from her late father. Rebecca switches between eccentric, bubbly, woman to a seemingly troubled and sad person.
Rebecca’s mix of positivity and slight oddness comes across in a hilarious manner. She is awkward but, seemingly, harmless and a lot of fun. Her intentions are a little misguided. Hell, most people would take exception to her breaking in to make breakfast pancakes. Still, she would hate to get a bad review. As the film goes on she just gets better and better. The final 15 minutes are an absolute riot. Despite being dragged down by a lack of suspense and our protagonists being idiots. It’s hard not to be thoroughly entertained.
Credit to Brandon Christensen, the ending is played out really well. Aside from the aforementioned stupid decisions of our protagonists. The pay off to Superhost is extremely satisfying. It’s one of those rare cases where I felt like the movie ended exactly as it should. This is almost entirely down to how good of a character Rebecca is. As with many comic books. Horror movie villains are incredibly important. A decent horror villain can make up for a lot of issues. Rebecca is one such villain. She is the type of antagonist that you would be happy to see a series of movies based around.
Acting is okay. Sara Canning is fine as the bitchy, unlikeable, Claire. Osric Chau, as Teddy, is okay. He has a tendency to reuse the same facial expression repeatedly. His lost puppy dog expression with the somewhat dominant Claire gets quite annoying. He also uses the same sad-boy exhale a number of times. He does manage to emote well in a few scenes, though. Barbara Crampton is tons of fun as a disgruntled former host for the pair.
This really is the Gracie Gillam show, though. She is absolutely fantastic as Rebecca. I loved every minute of her performance. Channelling her inner Kathy Bates (Annie Wilkes, Misery). Gillam is a brilliant mix of ditsy, overly friendly, woman and absolute psychopath. Scenes where she is being bubbly and jovial are obviously great. When tasked with showing emotion and acting legitimately strange, however, she is superb. The final 15 minutes or so are a great example of how to perform a crazy horror villain. It’s a wonderful performance. I would instantly sign up to future movies featuring Rebecca.
As far as cinematography goes, this is an okay looking movie. It’s not going to wow you. Some of the shots do a nice job of highlighting the fantastic scenery. The movie is very bright, though, which is something of a detriment to the atmosphere. Directing is somewhat lacking. A few of the scenes feel redundant. There are a couple of scenes that offer a hint of tension but just don’t hit the pay off. Pacing is okay. Scripting isn’t particularly bad. The ending is a lot of fun. Brandon Christensen has done a great job scripting and crafting a fantastic antagonist. He deserves credit for that.
Superhost is, unfortunately, a fairly average movie. It is incredibly difficult to care about Claire and Teddy. They are dull characters with no depth and are not particularly likeable. The social media influencer element is, thankfully, not overplayed. It also feels like a rather pointless vehicle for the story. Said story is seriously lacking in nuance and intriuge. Hints at some added depth to the plot don't really go anywhere. Some potentially interesting elements fail to offer a satisfying pay off.
Superhost is, also, severely lacking in scares. Set in a secluded house next to the woods. The movie never manages to tap into its fantastic location. Most of the events take place in the middle of the day. This really takes away from the sense of tension. There is no atmosphere and the characters never really feel at risk. Luckily, a fantastic antagonist and a brilliant performance by Gracie Gillam give us something to cling onto. Gillam is a huge bright spot here. A wonderfully enjoyable performance that legitimately demands attention.
I struggle to recommend Superhost. It is a fairly easy watch and not too demanding of the viewer. Despite this, it's just not that great. I actually think the movie is entirely worth a watch purely for Gracie Gillam's performance, though. Rebecca is an absolutely fantastic character. She genuinely makes Superhost worth the 80+ minute time investment. The ending is extremely satisfying despite how dumb the protagonists are. Were it not for the interesting antagonist, I doubt this would be worth your time. Go into it expecting a boring movie with a brilliant villain and you may enjoy yourself.