Host is one of the most technically inventive horror films to come out in a long, long time. It is the kind of movie that reminds you of your childhood days that you spend doing crazy stuff with your friends and siblings.
Directed by Rob Savage, the film is a by-product of one of his out-of-the-box experiments that took the Internet by storm.
In the early days of the quarantine, Mr. Savage shared a couple of Zoom App meetings on his Twitter account, where he appeared to be taken down by some evil entity. Obviously, it was a prank, but he performed with full conviction. The internet community dug getting spooked out so much that the video got viral.
Inspired by his idea (and approached by Shudder to develop the concept further), he made a proper movie around it. And here we are, with a film that takes place entirely in a Zoom meeting. And whatnot – it is made during the lockdown, with all the actors performing from their homes. How impressive is this?!
The film tells the story of a group of friends who are bored out of quarantine. They exist in the same world we live in, and they are all trying to keep up with the coronavirus.
One of the friends named Haley (all the actors have their real names in the film) hires a medium to help her communicate with the spirit world. Intending to try something exciting while being in isolation, she convinces others to join a first of its kind Zoom App mediumship.
As they begin the ritual, with Seylan (the medium), one of the mischievous friends in the group (Jemma) lies about feeling the presence of a friend who once committed suicide.
Soon, all of them start experiencing nerve-racking occurrences that compel Jemma to admit that she was lying. To her horror, she learns that she may have summoned a demonic spirit.
Host is an Extremely Well-Acted Movie
For such a concept to be translated effectively, mainly under the current circumstances, a lot was dependent on the actors.
There are 9 characters in this film (excluding the supernatural), and these are totally unfamiliar faces. Assuming they are all aspiring actors, it must have been an excruciating challenge for them, as well as Rob, to get everything done correctly.
There are no professional cameras. The entire film plays like a typical Zoom Call meeting. If you dwell on how it must have been made, the process seems laborious.
Several shots involve jump scares, or require the actors to react to strange sounds. Recording the footage piece-by-piece in the right manner must have needed plenty of rehearsals and a great collaborative effort. But seeing all of it play out so perfectly and effectively is so damn elating.
Every actor has done a brilliant job. All of them seem to be giving 100%, and they never feel stupid about what they are doing. Their expressiveness is astonishingly natural, and despite a total lack of character development, their performances make us care about their fate.
There are a good 12-15 minutes at the beginning dedicated to showcasing their camaraderie and routine lives under the pandemic. The build-up is a beautifully escalier process that starts from a Zoom call of two participants, then four, six, and so on, and so forth. It sets up the right mood for what is about to come. And by the time stuff begins to happen, you are already invested in these characters, and you want them alive.
This is the most crucial aspect of any horror film, and Host gets it right. Besides, this is a terrifying film. There is relentless suspense for forty straight minutes, and its something I sincerely did not expect from a Zoom App horror movie.
The Technicalities are Mind-Blowingly Helmed
This film is an excellent example of how to execute the conventional horror-movie scares for the best results. There is barely anything that you haven’t seen before. Whether it is a hanging corpse, or a shadow creeping behind someone, or people getting dragged here and there. We have seen all of it many times. Yet, it works for most of the part because the actors have done a phenomenal job, and the techniques used to execute such scenes are original.
The characters carry their laptops with them everywhere since it is the intended way for us to see them. When it doesn’t seem rational, they switch to Zoom App on their iPhones to remain conspicuous (which is sometimes hilarious!).
And since the film plays like a Zoom App conversation, which almost everyone has grown accustomed to in the last 4 months, the narrative has a 3D feel.
The scares are skillfully staged so that every time someone goes through the corridor, for instance, to find out why the door is slamming on its own – you go with them. The Zoom app perspective allows you to follow the characters, and therefore, it is not always easy to look into the dark because it feels very immersive.
Another intelligent thing that the director has done is to insert scares that will demand acute attentiveness. For one, I counted two scenes when the App’s interface shows the screens of all participants, and there are ghostly things to take note of. These are blink-and-you-miss-it moments that, if noticed, keep you alarmed and excited.
A Hybrid of Documentary and Feature Film Runtime
Host has a very unusual running time of 57-minutes. (A long…short film?) In case you are not aware, a film is called a feature film, when its duration is of 70+ minutes. Basically, it is the minimum time of a movie required for it to play in cinemas. Anything under it isn’t a feature.
Short Films and Documentaries, on the other hand, also have a cap of 40-minutes. Hence, it is exciting to see a film made at an exact length of 57-minutes, which, by the way, never feels dragged or rushed. It is perfectly paced.
Considering how the online streaming platforms are gaining prominence and, more importantly, good and creative films are being made, this step is in the right direction. Host is one helluva experiment in the horror-movie genre that is effectively taut and scary.
It is technically impressive and scores big on the performances. Budding actors can learn a lot from the cast on how they could give such sincere performances without having any backstories or, most importantly, being on a film set.
I am unsure about the repeat-value of the movie, but even as a one-time watch, it scared me by a good measure. And it will always be associated with the Zoom App. If you are a fan of horror films or have a passion for filmmaking, I strongly recommend that you see it.
You can watch Host for free on Shudder by subscribing for a 30-day trial.
Rating: 3 / 5
Have you seen Host? What is your favorite horror film of recent years? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.