Host (2020) – Review | Shudder Horror Movie |
Host -2020

Director Rob Savage
Screenplay Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd
Starring Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, Caroline Ward, Teddy Linard, Seylan Baxter

Found footage horror is a trend that found its footing with The Blair Witch Project in 1999. It’s use was elevated with Paranormal Activity and its sequels. More often than not the style treaded water until 2015’s Unfriended brought it into the internet world. When Covid 19 hit and the world started to live and function over Zoom, a group of friends started having weekly meetings using the format. They’d usually watch movies or games together, but when one of them (Savage) played a prank on the others that went viral, soon Savage got some calls asking if he had more where that came from.

Of course he said yes. Even if he had none, he had a willing group of friends who would work with him to create something. What they came up with is something unique in the genre: a genuine cast of people who already had a camaraderie and a history from which they could build. This is important in the effort. We clearly see that the participants are in the middle of one ritual, and unwisely decide to introduce another one.

One of the friends, Haley, calls a friend Seyland from outside the group to lead a seance. The rest of the friends treat this as randomly as any group of friends might. Some take it too seriously. Others want to have fun. One of them, Jemma, plays a joke on the rest, but doesn’t reveal it until a bad connection removes the Seylan from the group in a moment that you will miss if you blink. By the time Seylan is contacted by Haley via phone, things have begun to slowly unravel.

On its face, Host can seem like a collection of gimmicks tied to a live stream. That in and of itself would be an impressive feat, just timing wise. Savage has managed to find the right characters to mix into the fray, resulting in a story that moves you sentimentally as well as through fear. These people have an obvious bond, and it hurts the others to see their friends suffering in any way.

The film isn’t quite an hour, but it is easy to lose track of time when the camera is constantly rolling and several sets eyes to evaluate. The best reactions to the film are Caroline and Jemma. They approach it from opposite angles, but they end up in the same place. The others live uncomfortably in the world in between.

The last 21 minutes are intense, with occasional breaks where the viewer will be pretty sure they know how the tricks have been done, only to be surprised in the next moment. There is one amazing shot using face filters that is worth the price of the film.

This is the perfect film for teenagers who see the world through a Tik Tok lens. I have two kids that live on conference facetime chats at this point. I can’t wait to see how they react to something that feels real enough to hurt.

(**** out of *****)

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