The horror streaming service Shudder have brought another of their popular films to home release with the new Blu-ray of Brandon Christensen’s Superhost, giving those who haven’t signed up to the horror network the chance to check out the kind of content that they have on offer.
Superhost follows Claire (Sara Canning) and Teddy (Osric Chau), a young couple who host the YouTube channel ‘Superhost’, which sees them travelling the country, staying at various rental properties, and reviewing them. With their channel having seemed to have reached its peak, the two of them are struggling to find new ways of attracting more viewers. Teddy is pushing to try some whimsical editing techniques, but Claire seems stuck in a state of anxiety, depression, and even anger, over their source of income not going anywhere.
When the couple travel to a beautiful, remote house in the woods, Claire thinks that they might have hit the goldmine when they meet Rebecca (Gracie Gillam), the young woman who has rented the home to them. This over-the-top happy and perky young woman quickly shows that she has something of a strange edge to her, and Claire thinks that this ‘crazy’ woman will help the views roll into their channel. Despite not wanting to exploit the woman, and just wanting to find the perfect time to propose, Teddy agrees to keep featuring the odd woman in their recordings, but when Rebecca starts to veer from quirky into frightening the two young vloggers begin to believe that they may have made a mistake.
In the special features on this release, writer/director Brandon Christensen talks about the genesis for this story, about how when renting a room from someone he had to get the owner round to unblock the toilet, and it was only then that the thought occurred to him how scary the situation was. You could be renting from anyone. The person you talk to online could be completely different to the person they appear to be, and it could be incredibly dangerous if they turned out to be a bad person. This kind of fear is something that many of us who have used Airbnb and similar sites might not have really thought about too much. The fact that you’re staying in another person’s home, that they could have a spare key and enter whilst you’re sleeping, that there could be anyone asking you to stay in their home, is genuinely quite frightening.
Superhost puts this fear right at the forefront of the film, and you don’t get long with things being ‘normal’ before you start to feel a bit uncomfortable about the situation. The film doesn’t give you a huge amount of time to relax into things before introducing Rebecca and beginning the journey into horror, and whilst this helps with the fast pacing of the movie and the relatively short runtime, it does mean that we never really have a chance to get to know Teddy and Claire beyond their initial set-ups.
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From the very first scene we know that Claire is worried about their channel, that the stress of losing followers is getting to her and changing her into a more negative person. We get to see that Teddy is trying to placate her worries, is looking at the positives, and is planning to propose. And we never really move beyond this. Most of the scenes with the two of them after this are just more of the same, more of these same personality traits and worries. They don’t go beyond their immediate goals and concerns, and whilst this doesn’t necessarily make their characters bad, it does leave them feeling a bit shallow. But then again, perhaps that’s what the director wanted: a young couple who live online and are nothing but shallow people chasing fame and fortune via the internet.
Whilst Chau and Christensen do a fine job but never really feel anything more than just fine, the real star of the film is Gracie Gillam, who is absolutely wonderful as Rebecca. From her very first scene she steals the movie away from the other leads. She comes across as one of those perpetually excited, energetic kinds of people who make you feel tired just by being around them and trying to keep up. At first she seems sweet, if not a little naive about what she’s saying and doing and how it could affect others. But as the film goes on Gillam begins to put more and more of an edge into her performance, and pretty soon it’s clear that this is a woman who could snap at any point, for any reason. It’s chilling how well she walks that line, how she can go from relatively normal to frightening with just a look or the way she says something. Despite how wonderful she is to watch, you will be yelling at Claire and Teddy to just leave, and I think Rebecca is very much the kind of person you’d run from if you ever met her.
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Alongside the film, the new release comes with some behind the scenes features and making-of documentaries that go not just into how the film was made, but the challenges of making it during a global pandemic and how that affected the production. Having seen a number of behind the scenes breakdowns of movies it’s interesting to see one taking a slightly different approach, and showing how the current global events are changing how films are made, rather than just focusing on the regular processes of a movie.
There’s also a series of bloopers, and some visual effects breakdowns that show how some of the big moments were made, as well as some incredibly subtle visual effects that you probably didn’t pick up on when watching the movie. In addition to this there’s a commentary for the film from the director, who goes into more detail about the creation of the movie, and two shorts called ‘Scaredycats’ that Christensen directed.
Superhost is a decent movie, that moves with a decent pace, has a pretty strong cast, and with a short runtime doesn’t outstay its welcome. It takes a simple premise and pushes it to its extreme to deliver an enjoyable and creepy horror experience.