With the rise of shared economy vacation alternatives like Airbnb, it’s no wonder horror filmmakers are becoming aware of the anxieties that arise with strangers who trust the internet, either as tenants or as hosts. Last year’s The Rental was a solid entry from Dave Franco. Now, horror streamer Shudder dives in with Superhost, from screenwriter and director Brandon Christensen.
Superhost premieres on Shudder on September 2. Take a look at our review below.
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YouTubers Teddy and Claire run the Superhost channel, where they profile different vacation rental hosts. In short, they visit properties and value their stays.
However, they are rapidly losing a following and their last weekend trip is a chance to update their brand a bit. But their host, Rebecca, is not exactly what they expected. At first, it’s a bit eccentric. But as the red flags continue to pile up, the two guests begin to suspect that something more sinister could be going on. Little annoyances and bypasses give way to bigger privacy breaches until it all reaches a bloody point.
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Anyone who’s ever stayed at an Airbnb will probably recognize the complicated dance that happens when you sign up. Some hosts never meet you in person. But some greet you when you arrive. Everyone has different expectations and adjusting to the right dynamics can be uncomfortable.
If you’ve stayed at an Airbnb, you likely recognize some of the more awkward social interactions that come with the territory.
Superhost increases that discomfort to 11. and then continues. Gracie Gillam is clearly having fun playing Rebecca’s wilder sides, but she’s also hitting some quieter notes. You can’t tell if she’s kind-hearted, but socially weird, or if she could actually kill you in your sleep.
Who do you trust in?
However, it’s not just about Rebecca.
Like the superhosts they profile, Teddy and Claire’s channel lives or dies on positive engagement. Rebecca’s almost obsessive repeated line, “I wouldn’t want to get a bad review,” serves essentially the same function as Teddy’s constant on-screen reminders to “break that like button.” Everyone is very nervous because the need to please, be it a new tenant or an army of subscribers, supersedes everything.
This is where Superhost really shines. Just when you think you’ve figured out what’s going on (Rebecca is unhinged and dangerous, right?), You realize that there may be a number of not-so-super hosts who have had their livelihoods threatened by Teddy and Claire in the clicks name.
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Welcoming a YouTuber couple into your home is after all as risky as being hosted by a faceless stranger online, so what really happens? Are Teddy and Claire what they claim to be?
Superhost keeps his cards close to his chest. We are never in a position to fully understand what is what, and that makes the journey tense and surprising at all times.
Lots of scares to face your next getaway
Superhost is also just plain scary, with some really chilling moments. And it also combines some comedic elements, with some nods to the audience about YouTuber culture and the weirdness of the sharing economy.
The overall pacing feels a bit out of place at certain key moments, especially in the run-up to act three. The film benefits from maintaining a sense of mystery to build suspense, but it also reveals too quickly at times. As a result, everything feels a bit light on reward.
Superhost touches on some deep topics about the sharing economy and what it means to live online.
But having said that, Superhost is faced with some interesting topics and doesn’t give you any clean takeout. What does it mean that we live our lives publicly online? Why do we trust strangers to welcome us into their homes? Why should they trust us? Can our interactions be genuine when we know they will be reduced to a like or a review?
Superhost is far more interested in touching these social wounds than making a clear statement. And the movie benefits from that. You don’t know what to expect when you book a stay online. It can be amazing or it can be a nightmare. That is fertile ground to explore through horror.
However, it may stay with you the next time you scroll through the vacation listings.
Superhost comes out on September 2. Check it out on Shudder.
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