Host Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Shudder
Directed by Rob Savage
Written by Rob Savage, Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd
2020 56 minutes, Not Rated
Now streaming exclusively on Shudder
Haley Bishop as Haley
Jemma Moore as Jemma
Emma Louise Webb as Emma
Radina Drandova as Radina
Caroline Ward as Caroline
Alan Emrys as Alan
Seylan Baxter as Seylan
In 2013 director Rob Savage became Screen International’s Star of Tomorrow. Seven years, several shorts and awards later and good lord has he lived up to that and more with a horror film that not only has its finger firmly on the pulse of the planet, but has also revived a genre that has been refusing to give in despite years of indifference. Found footage hasn’t felt this fresh and exciting since, well, The Blair Witch Project.
The premise is simple. Imagine, if you can, that there is a pandemic affecting the entire world and we all have to stay home… six friends hire a medium to hold a séance via Zoom during lockdown and what starts out as a bit of fun very quickly goes wrong when an evil presence answers their call and invades their homes.
There are so many things that make this film work that it’s hard to know where to start. Firstly, to get a film made under these circumstances, with such a quick turnaround, let alone one that looks so perfectly polished with very real devil in the detail, is something to be celebrated.
Filmmakers Savage, Hurley and Shepherd undoubtedly owe a lot to such films as Unfriended – the film that takes place entirely on Skype – and the likes of Paranormal Activity, but they wear these influences on their sleeves and, instead of being weighed down with the pressure that those films could bring, they delight in delivering something that taps into the same spiritual vein and manages to elevate it to new heights. Host doesn’t stray too far from its peers but rather than feeling derivative it enthusiastically and politely nods to them.
There are moments you’d expect such as the good ol’ sound from the attic, that may or may not reveal something sinister, being slowly investigated with a torch, or jump scares from something completely harmless, but it uses Zoom so perfectly, right down to the credits, that you’ll have no choice but to submit to its horrific charm. The success not only lies with the filmmaker’s abilities, but the abilities of a cast so damn perfect it hurts. Each and every one of them brings such natural energy that you feel like you are part of a real group chat, this, of course, is the objective and it is met with aplomb as everyone is able to generate just the right amount of snot required for full-on scared.
All using their real-life names - Haley (Angel has Fallen), plays the more mature one of the group who organises the séance with Psychic Medium Seylan (2015's Macbeth) and then invites friends Jemma (Wonder Woman), Emma (The Crown), Radina (Dawn of the Deaf), Caroline (Dawn of the Deaf) and Alan (Young Wallander). As their fears and apprehensions build throughout the 56-minute run time, they provide such depth to the film that, although on the surface it could be seen as just another found footage flick, it becomes anything but. Among the scares, the jumps and the tension there are also real laughs and nice lockdown-based touches including a reference to Ocado that now seems so quintessentially British.
Shudder has a real genre defining hit here and it’s genuinely worth subscribing just to watch Host again and again and again. Until we get the inevitable sequel which, usually would be something to fear more than an actual demon, but somehow in the hands of these filmmakers you trust that it would be incredible.
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