Shudder’s newest original ‘Host‘ takes this pandemic to new horrifying heights when a group of friends summon an unknown evil to join their call after a seance doesn’t go exactly as planned. Blame it on the glitchy internet connection, what serves as another lesson in leaving the dead alone, turns into an hour to die for.
Rob Savage (Strings) solely uses computer- and phone screens, as proven successfully in the past with films such as ‘Searching‘ and ‘Unfriended‘. To make a film during a global pandemic isn’t easy with current restrictions in place, but writers Savage, Jed Shepherd (Multiplex) and Gemma Hurley (Shoot for the Moon) found a way around it and even incorporated the whole new way of isolated living into their story.
Haley (Haley Bishop – Angel Has Fallen) organises a seance to make it possible for her and her rather sceptical friends, to hopefully contact a deceased loved one. After a bit of goofing around, which starts to piss off Haley, psychic Seylan (Seylan Baxter – Doctor Who) unexpectedly disappears from the Zoom call and the group of friends quickly realise they might not survive the night. Savage knows how to build tension by borrowing from Paranormal Activity‘s bag of tricks. Who knew flying chairs and flickering lights would still scare the living hell out of us?!
It’s mostly because of how topical this entire film is, that makes this supernatural home made horror feel like it could happen to you or me on our next FaceTime or Skype-conversation. ‘Host‘ keeps it familiar by expanding very recognisable problems, like a failing internet connection or that one friend who just can’t stop using face-deforming filters, up to the point of inspiring the ominous presence in using the filter as a scare tactic. If you don’t delete Snapchat after watching this film, you clearly have a death wish.
Even though ‘Host‘ isn’t a perfect film, with lots of impossibilities scattered throughout that don’t make sense whatsoever, and introducing interesting characters that then just get killed off to raise the film’s body count, it still works as a solid horror film. The acting from everyone involved is pretty decent for such a low budget film, using an ensemble that’s fairly unknown to the public, which could’ve had a similar effect on movie going audiences if it would’ve been released just like 1999’s genre-changing ‘The Blair Witch Project‘, using a killer marketing campaign that made everyone believe a found footage documentary was real, and the people involved actually died.
‘Host‘ goes full force supernatural and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The use of social media in times of COVID-19 makes for brutal ways of exploiting the medium and amplifying the horror by hosting a Zoom meeting from hell. Fully committed to the idea, Savage keeps the shocks and twists coming at you with no way to escape due to lockdown restrictions on and off screen. A screwed-up terrifying cyber seance that’ll make you think twice before you join another online friendly get together.
Review – ‘Host’
Reviewed online, August 5, 2020. Running time: 56 min.
PRODUCTION: A Shudder release of a Shadowhouse Films production. Producers: Douglas Cox, Emily Gotto, Samuel Zimmerman. Executive producers: Craig Engler, Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd.
CREW: Director: Rob Savage. Screenplay: Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd. Editor: Brenna Rangott.
WITH: Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, Caroline Ward, Alan Emrys, Seylan Baxter.