Airbnb reviewer vloggers Claire and Teddy are bleeding viewership fast. To save their monetized video channel, their financial independence, and possibly live happily ever after as man and wife, the duo was finally able to rent a highly demanded location set in isolated in the forest when it became available. The house is more than they could ever hope for with beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious accommodations, and breathtaking idyllic mountain views. The one little hiccup about the residential stay is the quirky superhost, Rebecca, who has been more than overly friendly. An unsuspecting guest from the past turns the tables on Claire and Teddy as Rebecca slowly unravels her true intentions in a nerve-wracking game of life and death with all the amenities.
From the director of the supernatural baby-snatching “Still/Born” and the imaginary friend from Hell in “Z” comes Brandon Christensen’s next written-and-directed demented thriller “Superhost” that takes the automated vacation rental methodology and breaks them in half. Shot just outside Las Vegas in the rural area of Mount Charleston, Christensen provides the illusion of a far trek away from busy street society with a cabin in the woods what if’er of an overzealous hosting homeowner making weird and uncomfortable conversation with their tenants on a daily or nightly basis. Tacked onto that idea is the new age monetizing of vlogs and racking up subscribers that overtake or make us blind to what’s really important. The Superchill and First Look Releasing production is executive produced by the Ty and Darren Siversten and produced by Christensen, Kurtis David Harder (“Spiral,” “V/H/S/94”), and stars Sara Canning and Osric Chau.
Aforementioned, Sara Canning (“Z,” “The Banana Splits Movie”) and Osric Chau (“Supernatural”) star in the film as vlogging couple Claire and Teddy. Whether be the actors’ performances or the blind obsession toward their monetized YouTube platform to secure financial freedom, the on-screen chemistry between the couple didn’t jive. What doesn’t help is there’s no real romance being displayed during their time together nor was there any expositional or any form of mentioning what their life looked like before becoming internet influencers. Being influencers makes up a sizeable portion of what the audiences (us as viewers and not their video channel followers) know about the couple sans the miscellaneous background of Teddy’s parents providing rent aid whenever needed and Teddy’s top-secret engagement plan in which he also vlogs to his viewers behind Claire’s back. We experience a little more where Teddy comes from, but Claire is a complete mystery much in the same way as superhost Rebecca. However, as the crazed host, the enigma surrounding the jovially expressed Rebecca, eager to help with clog toilets and whip up pancakes, adds to her strange and frightening demeanor. I would never want Gracie Gillam (“Fright Night” ’11, “Z Nation”) to uninvitedly walk into my vacation rental in her full Rebecca form. I would forego my deposit lickety-split and hightail away from a much-needed getaway to literally save my skin from Rebecca’s crackpot revelry. Popping into the frame a couple of times is genre veteran and overall fan favorite is Barbara Crampton (“From Beyond,” “Re-Animator”) as Vera, a disgruntled property owner who tracks down Claire and Teddy for a vindictive, rock-throwing rant but becomes unsuspectedly ensnared in the Rebecca’s mare’s nest.
Brandon Christensen is no stranger to small productions with a small cast, but “Superhost” is a micro-production with a micro-cast and, somehow at no surprise, busts out a truly terrifying lunacy that can make you double think before clicking that confirmation button on the vacation rental reservation. “Superhost” is unsettling and invasive as if privacy is nonexistent and the ever-watchful eye is always looming. In fact, it is! With security cameras installed in basically every room, there’s 24-hour CCTV footage of every moment of Claire and Teddy, but isn’t the moment captured and being filmed constantly is what their livelihood and vocation is all about? Christensen has that paradoxical undertone packed exceedingly well beneath the veneer of voyeurism, inescapability, and troubled relationship issues that the theme becomes a backburner hit on the tail end in that what the thing that provides Claire and Teddy a reason to be free as individuals is the also the very thing that they can’t flee from and become merely a battered object of one’s mad person’s whims much like their more critical reviews can be ruinous to others. While “Superhost” can feel a bit slow for the first two acts, the story showcases a development and escalation of Grace Gillam’s Rebecca as a woman with more than one loose screw. Of course, Rebecca’s not seen for who she really is by the compulsion to film not just the rental, but also her, as gold-plated viewership material. “Superhost” admonishes a tread carefully thriller to beware and adhere the signs of mania danger and all those Rebeccas out there.
Trust me – cancel that reservation, plan on a staycation, and watch the Shudder-exclusive “Superhost” now on Blu-ray home video from Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded, Blu-ray is presented in an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Nothing terrible to note here as much of the digitally captured, RED Gemini images are about as crisp as they come with a natural presentation all around from cinematographer Clayton Moore (“It Stains the Sands Red”) with the exception of the unfiltered handheld camera and CCTV footage, which is also very authentic. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound rustles together clearly and discernibly ever creak of the floorboards and every gushy stabbing sound for full impact purposes. Dialogue track is clean with pronunciation clarity and the bottom-and-bass dropping score by instrumental band Blitz//Berlin (“Psycho Gorman,” “The Void”) continue to impress with their original soundtracks. The special feature includes a director’s commentary, a behind-the-scenes that talks about Mount Charleston location, the annoying tiny beetle swarms, and how amazingly small the production crew was, a solid blooper reel, “Superhost” VFX featurette with green screening and matting car scenes and the ultra-graphic knife through the mouth effect, a behind-the-scenes still gallery, and episodes 1 and 2 of Brandon Christensen’s television shorts, “Scaredycats.” Remember, guys, hit that like bottom and subscribe to follow Brandon Christensen’s descension of guests becoming unaccommodated by a psychotic “Superhost!”