Hype. Sometimes it can build the same way suspense does. For me, the only thing hyped almost as much as the Covid-19 Vaccine this year, was this small scale Horror movie Host. The buzz was all over social media after Host was released exclusively on Shudder July 28th. I was like, “What is this Host movie everyone is going nuts over?” I finally got to see coveted sleeper hit… was it worth the hype? The answer is a resounding yes!
Host is about six friends who meet with a medium to have a séance via Zoom, but end up conjuring up much more than they hoped for. This supernatural Horror movie was all made virtually in the UK. It was developed, produced and released all within 12 weeks during the 2020 pandemic lockdown.
The thrilling practical stunts and special effects were staged by the actors involved with these set pieces. Pyrotechnic and Special Effect Supervisors oversaw everything for safety, but the actors doubled as technicians. Besides that, the actors were also the camera operators of their own narrative. I was immediately taken by the perfect blend of practical and visual effects that added much more production value than I expected. Make no mistake, Host is a resourceful display of craft and storytelling.
A movie that tells a story from the confines of a computer screen is not an original idea. There was Unfriended, Open Windows and Paranormal Activity, but when it comes to salient scares Host delivers the most. The fact that such an impressive work was all conducted remotely, during a global pandemic, that is what makes Host so bold and unique.
While the story uses the anxiety and disconnect of the lockdown as a backdrop, it thankfully never feels like an overt statement about the pandemic. It serves as an allegory for what we are going through instead, playing on that isolation and heightened fear of death.
Rob Savage, the Director and Co-Writer of Host made full use of setting the story as an app feed. Everything from virtual backgrounds, face filters and free account time limits were explored and contributed to the movie in surprising ways.
After watching Host, it was clear why Rob Savage landed a three picture deal with Blumhouse. Since Rob Savage directed his first feature, Strings (2012) at the age of 18, some have compared him to Orson Welles, another filmmaking prodigy. Along with the other writers, Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd, this story has skillfully placed set ups and pay offs, natural dialogue and believable characters.
It must be said, the trailer for Host does not represent the experience of watching the movie. It is not even close. I understand that they did not want to spoil any major scares, but it certainly had me going in with low expectations. With each minute of Host, my hopes were exceeded, and I feel that will hold true for any fans of the genre.
And these are genuine scares mind you, none of that freshman level jump scare business. Where most of these supernatural movies miss the mark for me is that it feels like the stakes are too low. That none of the characters are in real danger, that is not the case here. Host hits you hard with suspense and danger with every turn.
The cast of Host clearly rose to the challenge of this production and have a great chemistry together. Haley Bishop (“Angel Has Fallen”) plays Haley, the host of the Zoom meeting who brings this group together. Well… she starts off as the “host” at least. Rounding out the cast of friends are actors who also play a character who shares their first name. These actors include, Jemma Moore (“Wonder Woman” – 2017), Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, Caroline Ward and Alan Emrys.
With a 56 minute run time, this movie is gripping, concise and well paced. While that is not feature length by conventional standards, Host is not a conventional movie and these are very unconventional times. With these streaming platforms, run times are very flexible now. Honestly, I feel a story like Host would have been weakened if it was forced into a 90 minute box.
If you have not seen Host yet, the wait is about to be over! In an age when our eyes are glued to screen displays more than ever, it is the perfect time to share in the chills and thrills with this group of virtual friends. So light a candle and brace yourself, this could be the new face of Horror in the digital age. Host will be available on Digital platforms and released in select theaters in the UK and Ireland on December 4, courtesy of Vertigo Releasing.
– Curt Wiser is the Writer/Director of the Suspense movie Cam-Girl. He is happy to review the work of other filmmakers and share them with the world, especially if it is an inspiring indie like Host.
28th July 2020
THE QUICK SELL
Six friends hire a medium to hold a seance via Zoom during lockdown, but they get far more than they bargained for as things quickly go wrong.