Host, the new paranormal horror film from director Rob Savage (Strings), debuted on Shudder yesterday, and it’s quickly becoming one of the most talked about new films on social media.
Filmed entirely during quarantine with a 56 minute run-time, Host centers on six friends who, bored with social-distancing and isolation due to Covid-19, decide to hire a psychic to perform a seance for them via Zoom. When one of the group members fails to take things seriously, however, all hell breaks loose, and what follows is pure genius.
Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, and Caroline Ward round out the central cast with Seylan Baxter appearing as the medium.
Savage wastes very little time getting down to business once his characters are introduced, and he makes every single minute count as the strange and terrifying events begin to take place.
Now, to be fair, Host is a bit of trope-fest. If you’re a fan of paranormal horror who has seen and enjoyed Grave Encounters, Paranormal Activity, and Hell House, then you have seen a lot of what goes on in this film. In fact, there is very little new or fresh about Host save for it all basically being filmed and directed without anyone being in the same room together.
However, Savage and his cast and crew chose to embrace those tropes and just go with them without pretension or judgement which ultimately makes the film not only fun but also effective.
Now remember, this film takes place entirely on a Zoom call? That puts everyone on camera with a lot of empty space, open doors, dark hallways, and shadowy windows behind them which automatically sets us ill at ease. Films like the aforementioned Paranormal Activity have taught us to not trust those open, darkened spaces, and as I watched I found myself constantly on alert, scanning each little Zoom window for anything out of the ordinary.
Moreover, because of the way Host was made, each actor was responsible for their own recording, lighting, make-up, and stunts which gave the movie a more homegrown, realistic feel than films like Unfriended where everything was just a little too polished.
And then there’s the brevity of the film. That 56 minute run-time is a blessing in itself. Nothing is overdrawn and it keeps each moment moving at a pace that ultimately serves the narrative.
When those elements combine, they work far better than I could have anticipated.
If the film falters anywhere, it is toward the end. As the action and terror ramps up so, do the special effects and stunt work. This is, of course, how things should progress, but there were moments where it became just a tad too flashy for the film’s otherwise organic feel. I won’t spoil anything, but you’ll know it when you see it.
Despite this fact, however, Host comes to a satisfyingly abrupt conclusion that will have you checking the dark corners of your house to make sure nothing and no one is there.
You can see the film exclusively on Shudder right now! Grab some popcorn, turn down the lights, and get ready to join the Zoom call from Hell.