GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by Brandon Christensen.
Starring Sara Canning, Osric Chau, Gracie Gillam, Barbara Crampton.
Horror, US, 83 minutes.
Streaming on Shudder from September 2nd, 2021.
The online world of travel vloggers comes under threat from a host whose cheery facade may be hiding a more troubling nature. Teddy and Clare travel the country sharing their experiences and opinions of picturesque holiday homes on their vlog, relying on high subscriber numbers, constantly reminding their viewers to like and subscribe. It is a request that seems to be getting more desperate as their vlog is starting to haemorrhage viewers, a fact that is having an impact on their precarious financial situation. While Teddy has hatched a plan on their latest getaway to propose to Clare, a romantic action he hopes to catch on camera and ensnare more viewers, the more cynical Clare is more interested in getting their host Rebecca’s off-kilter behaviour on camera in the hopes of going viral.
Clare’s cynical decision soon proves itself to be a dangerous one. What was once thought of as seemingly innocuous soon takes on a more threatening edge as Rebecca’s eager to please nature soon oversteps its boundaries and Teddy and Clare soon start to question the true nature of their surroundings and host.
If “smash that like button” or other such declarations, have you closing down your browser in annoyance then SUPERHOST is not the film for you. Sadly, with its padded-out storyline and shallow characters there is little to recommend to anyone else with more patience for that sort of thing. Writer and director Brandon Christensen has delivered a film that may have passed as a short but stretched out to eighty-three minutes it stretches the viewers patience. Shallow characters and a thinner than tissue storyline lay bare the films faults for all to see. On learning its premise, suspicions may be raised that SUPERHOST has very little to offer unless it is keeping something close to its chest story wise to surprise the viewer. Don’t hold your breath.
Dipping into second screen storytelling, ala HOST, and found footage at times, SUPERHOST suffers in comparison to other films that examine oddball characters through a digital lens. The CREEP films being a good example with Mark Duplass’s portrayal of a potential psychopath playing to the camera and toying with his audience or last year’s SPREE, which examined the toxic nature of social media to unsettling effect. Gracie Gillam, no matter how hard she tries, fails to give the character of Rebecca any backstory or sense of a life beyond what is shown onscreen. The same can be said but even more so when it comes to the film’s protagonists. Their shallow nature from the start is immediately grating and never reverses course, leaving the viewer rooting against them even when the films long overdue, and little used, horror aspects kick in. Even the prospect of the always welcome Barbara Crampton making an extended cameo fails to raise the films entertainment level.
The score by Blitz/Berlin manages to sometimes contribute a menacing atmosphere and Clayton Moore’s cinematography manages to capture the wide-open spaces of the guest house and its remote surroundings nicely but sadly that is all there is to recommend here. Thankfully when it comes to Shudder, where the film will be on show for all its subscribers, there is no thumbs up or down to show how the majority of SUPERHOST’S viewers will no doubt feel about it.