Let’s be respectful.
Host is a Shudder exclusive and released without a lot of fanfare earlier this year. (There are a couple other films by this name but look for the one that is about an hour long). What makes this film interesting is that the entire thing was filmed in Zoom and really captures the feeling of lockdown because, well, it was filmed in lockdown.
We follow a group of friends who are going to perform a séance via Zoom for something to do. Led by Haley (Haley Bishop), who seems to be already haunted, the crew gets together and discusses the night’s plan. One thing that is nicely done here is that the exposition is done in a way that doesn’t feel forced. We get the information we need to and get on with the main plot.
Something goes awry during the séance, and what seemed like a harmless joke is actually a major mistake made by one of the friends. Now, they have accidentally allowed something more malevolent to come through. Further, our séance leader Seylan (Seylan Baxter) is suddenly cut from the group and can’t be reached to help them.
What follows could be described as a familiar found footage horror film (I suppose we’ll have to call them live horror films or something now). However, dismissing this one due its derivative roots undermines what a surprising treat this film is. Honestly, the film is a hell of a good time.
The actresses do fantastic in acting scared. Caroline (Caroline Ward) in particular does shocked and stressed amazingly, and this facial expression is something that is often missing in horror when characters aren’t speaking. She is simply flipping out for most of the film.
Despite limited mobility, we get some strong reactions and enough tension to keep things moving. One major reason this film works so well is that it respects the audience enough to not drag things out. The meat of the story is about an hour (followed by an interesting but ultimately unneeded behind-the-scenes chat with the cast and crew). If they would have ballooned this to 90 minutes (or even two hours as some seem to want to do) we’d have a disaster. This is a simple, fast, and effective treat that is just about perfect to watch with friends and some dinner.
What I love about this movie is this is what microbudget horror should be all about. Here, we have creators who wanted to tell a scary story and did so with what they had on hand. Add in the reliance and zoom and capturing the feel of 2020 and you’ve got yourself a good time.
While I was thoroughly impressed by this one and love the gumption of the cast and crew to not let Covid slow them down, I suppose we have to have some gripes. We do get some shaky cam issues with the scary scenes, and it seems somewhat unlikely people would still be dragging their computers around once it becomes clear they are in danger. However, this is one of the better explanations to why everyone would have a camera in the first place.
The few issues present in this film are widely problematic in the genre. Here, the good vastly outweighs the few issues. We have a meat and potatoes horror film that delivers in almost every regard. This is a fun and worthwhile horror film to see. Hopefully, the cast and crew continue making some excellent stuff.
Absolutely worth a watch.