New streaming on Shudder!

SUPERHOST (2021)

Directed and written by Brandon Christensen.
Starring Sara Canning, Osric Chau, Gracie Gillam, Barbara Crampton

Claire (Sara Canning) and Teddy (Osric Chau) run a YouTube channel where they visit Bed & Breakfasts and rate them for their dwindling fanbase. After staking out a new place to report from, Teddy plans on proposing to Claire in a romantic spot. But they didn’t plan on their eccentric host Rebecca (Gracie Gilliam), who is proving to be one of the weirdest hosts they’ve ever encountered, which of course is good for their ratings. But as Rebecca shows her true colors of batshit crazy, Teddy and Claire begin to think her oddball behavior might just be dangerous.

Filmmaker Brandon Christensen is on quite a roll. I really enjoyed both Z (reviewed here) and STILL/BORN (reviewed here), and liked huge chunks of SUPERHOST. Christensen seems to be somewhat of a rising star in horror, creeping up that ladder to bigger and more potent horrors with every film he makes. While I don’t think SUPERHOST is as good as Z and STILL/BORN, it still is a cut above most of the horror films out there.

SUPERHOST is basically a gender-swapped and less found footagey version of CREEP (reviewed here), where the naïve are stalked and terrorized by a strange and unpredictable person, someone at first thought to be amusing, but turns out to be quite deadly. In this case, it’s Gracie Gilliam who delivers an extremely strong performance as Rebecca. She’s perky and chipper to a fault, but her glassy eyes hide some real, terrifying trauma. I love the way she kind of just zones out every now and then, making me wonder just what horrifying places she is going to in her mind and what gruesome thoughts she is thinking. While her pluckiness is played for laughs here, it’s the fact that she keeps this demeanor even when things get very real and bloody that makes her such a formidable villain. Gilliam looks like she could be related to stunner Alexandra Daddario as they both have the same transfixing eyes and dark attitude.

It was also great to see Barbara Crampton in a bit role as someone who previously appeared on Claire and Teddy’s show, received a bad review, and is now on a bit of a vengeance tear herself. After her fantastic performance in JAKOB’S WIFE (reviewed here), she once again proves that she is still the genre star that she has always been.

One of the main weaknesses of SUPERHOST is that the two leads, Sara Canning and Osric Chau, who are fine actors themselves, just don’t have any chemistry to speak of. Not only do they never even share a kiss, a loving embrace, or even a little snuggle, but the two look to have quite a bit of difference in age. This might not be the case, and I’m not saying that either actor is old at all, but they just don’t seem to match as a couple physically, emotionally, and especially sexually. This factors in a bit later in SUPERHOST, but it is obvious these two are a mismatched pair from the very beginning and makes it difficult to invest in the success in their relationship. And if you’re not invested in the main relationship of the movie, you’ve got a problem.

While I am grateful that Christensen didn’t go the found footage route with SUPERHOST, I imagine at some time there might have been a push for this tired method of horror-making to be applied. It makes me wonder, though, had there been that first person POV attachment of the found footage flick applied, would it have been easier to buy into the lives and fates of the leads. As is, SUPERHOST is a bit of a misfire in that I just didn’t believe the leads to have any feelings for each other at all. Gracie Gilliam is definitely an actor to watch though. See SUPERHOST for her over the top and off her meds performance.

Check out the trailer here!!