Superhost capitalizes on the vlogging zeitgeist not only as a narrative hook but as a target for commentary. It’s not condemning the practice in general but rather observing the values within and those of their practitioners. For example, Claire is more concerned about followers than facts and is always looking for ways to “boost numbers.” Teddy is just as happy slapping some quick filters or graphics on their videos and understands when to stop rolling. The film also brings in a former homeowner featured on their channel, which received a less-than-favorable review and its impact on her and her business.
There has been no shortage of horror films that have used one or more of these topics to set the tone (Dave Franco’s The Rental and the Duplass brothers Creep were two recent examples that excelled with the formula). But this has a number of things in its favor, particularly writer/director Brandon Christensen’s eye for set design and economical mood-building. Strikingly framed and lit to match its atmosphere, Superhost makes the most of its limited locales to craft its tension.
“…makes the most of its limited locales to craft its tension.”
Additionally, its leads are suitably strong in their respective roles. Chau effectively conveys his character’s strengths and vulnerabilities, and Canning nails Claire’s no-nonsense tendencies, both crafting a suitably believable central couple. As Rebecca, Gillam is all awkward smiles and forced laughter that suggest something much darker under the hood.
Superhost could have strengthened its narrative by not revealing its cards as early as it does when it comes to Rebecca. To have her slowly begin to show fractures of her personality would have helped mount the tension better, instead of it being evident from her first frame that this woman has more issues than National Geographic. And there are some truly questionable decisions made by our supposedly savvy lead couple that also hamper the film’s overall strength. Granted, stupid decisions are a hallmark of the horror industry, but Teddy and Claire take some missteps that are marked with signs just short of red blinking traffic lights.
Despite these, Christensen still squeezes a fair share of engaging moments throughout Superhost. Throw in Gilliam’s perky perversity as our hostess, and it’s difficult to not enjoy your stay.
"…it's difficult to not enjoy your stay."