With the rise of sharing-economy vacation alternatives like Airbnb, it’s no surprise that horror filmmakers are picking up on the anxieties that come with trusting strangers online — as either a renter or a host. Last year’s The Rental was a solid entry from Dave Franco. Now, horror streamer Shudder is diving in with Superhost, from writer/director Brandon Christensen.
Superhost premieres on Shudder on September 2. Check out our review below.
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Checking in to Superhost
YouTubers Teddy and Claire run the Superhost channel, where they profile different vacation rental hosts. In short, they visit properties and rate their stays.
They’re losing followers fast, though, and their latest weekend trip is a chance to refresh their brand a bit. But their host, Rebecca, isn’t quite what they expected. At first, she’s a little eccentric. But as red flags keep piling up, the two guests start to suspect something more sinister might be up. Little annoyances and oversteps give way to bigger breaches of privacy until everything comes to a bloody head.
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Anyone who’s stayed at an Airbnb will likely recognize the tricky dance that happens when you check-in. Some hosts never meet you in person at all. But some greet you upon arrival. Everyone has different expectations, and settling into the right dynamic can be awkward.
If you’ve stayed at an Airbnb, you’ll likely recognize some of the more awkward social interactions that come with the territory.
Superhost cranks that awkwardness to 11. and then it keeps going. Gracie Gillam is clearly having fun playing the wilder sides of Rebecca, but she also hits some quieter notes. You can’t quite tell if she’s kindhearted but just socially odd or if she might really kill you in your sleep.
Who do you trust?
It’s not all about Rebecca, though.
Like the superhosts they profile, Teddy and Claire’s channel lives or dies by positive engagement. Rebecca’s near-obsessive repeated line, “wouldn’t want to get a bad review,” serves essentially the same function as Teddy’s constant onscreen reminders to “smash that like button.” Everyone’s high-strung because the need to please — whether a new renter or an army of subscribers — supersedes all.
This is where Superhost really shines. Just when you think you’ve figured out what’s going on (Rebecca’s unhinged and dangerous, right?), you realize that there may be a string of not-so-super-hosts who have had their livelihoods threatened by Teddy and Claire in the name of clicks.
Welcoming some YouTuber couple into your home is, after all, just as risky as being hosted by a faceless stranger online, so what’s really up? Are Teddy and Claire what they claim to be?
Superhost keeps its cards close to its chest. We’re never in a position to fully understand what’s what, and that makes for a tense and surprising ride throughout.
Plenty of scares to take on your next getaway
Superhost is also just plain scary, with a few genuinely chill-inducing moments. And it blends in some comedic elements too, with a few winks to the audience regarding YouTuber culture and the weirdness of the sharing economy.
The overall pacing feels a bit off in certain key moments, especially in the lead-up to the third act. The film benefits from maintaining a sense of mystery to build suspense, but it also reveals too much too fast at times. It all feels a bit light on payoff as a result.
Superhost touches on some deep themes about the sharing economy and what it means to live online.
But having said that, Superhost grapples with some interesting themes and doesn’t spoon-feed you any clean takeaways. What does it mean that we live our lives publicly online? Why do we trust strangers to host us in their homes? Why should they trust us? Can our interactions ever be genuine when we know they’ll be reduced to a like or a review?
Superhost is much more interested in picking at these social sores than making a clear statement. And the film benefits from that. You don’t know what to expect when you book a stay online. It might be amazing, or it might be a nightmare. That’s fertile ground to explore through horror.
It might linger with you the next time you scroll through vacation listings though.
Superhost drops September 2. Check it out on Shudder.