Saturday, 4 September 2021

Shudder Saturday: Superhost (2021)

Writer-director Brandon Christensen may not be immediately recognisable to most horror fans, but he's been creating some enjoyably solid genre fare over the past few years, and seems to be improving slightly with each film (I thought Still/Born was okay, I liked Z a bit more). While Superhost may not be the darkest or scariest horror movie you see this year, it's a hell of a lot of fun, helped by a completely unhinged turn from Gracie Gillam.

Gillam plays Rebecca, a young woman aiming to be reviewed as a "superhost" by Teddy (Osric Chau) and Claire (Sara Canning). Teddy and Claire have had a successful YouTube series for some time, but are currently losing followers, and relevance in that crowded field. Rebecca hopes to keep everything perfect though. A bad review from Teddy and Claire can ruin someone's business, as Vera (Barbara Crampton) discovered. 

Best summed up by the tagline "don't forget to like and survive", Superhost is generally fun from start to finish. The main potential problem that it has is the fact that Rebecca seems quite batty, to put it mildly, from the very beginning. But that's part of the fun, because Teddy and Claire think what they can get on camera will end up getting them a great reaction online, and push their numbers back up. Christensen does a good job of mixing the thriller element of the plot with a nice bit of full-on creepiness, at least one great gore moment, and the commentary on how things are presented online compared to how things are in reality. 

The leads do a good job, with both Chau and Canning believable in their normal interactions and equally believable when using their louder and more lively personas for their online videos. Crampton may only be onscreen for a few minutes, but she's as welcome as ever. Then you have Gillam, the manic and unbalanced heart of the film, giving a performance that easily puts her up there with the very best of the modern movie psychos. There's no surprise when her potential is fully realised, it's just up to the viewers to try and figure out what her actual motivation is.

Christensen gets everything right here. I can easily imagine a version of this movie that would have been painful to sit through, (either not casting the right people, deciding to go the found footage route, or any of a multitude of ways this could have felt wrong) but his instincts steer him right. And the fact that it all builds to an ending that is as darkly comedic as it is obvious means the whole experience is a satisfying and entertaining one.

I look forward to whatever we get next from Christensen. He's been on the right path for years, and if he delivers some minor modern classic in the next decade or so then remember that I told you so. Because I'll also say "I told you so".


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