★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Host is highly effective Zoom-based horror in which the cast members were also responsible for their own practical effects. The moral of the story is “Don’t try holding a seance over the internet, especially during lockdown.”
Directed by Rob Savage
Director Rob Savage’s Host may not be the first horror film to be shot during COVID-19 lockdown (the international portmanteau The Pandemic Anthology is one earlier example), but it makes a strong case to be considered the best one so far. This Zoom-based fear-fare feature provides plenty of nail-biting sequences and solid performances from cast members who also designed their own practical effects.
Haley Bishop as Haley (each of the main characters have the same first name as the cast members who portray them) organizes a Zoom seance, inviting five friends and medium Seylan (Seylan Baxter). Something already appears to be amiss in Haley’s home before her friends join in, but when friend Jemma (Jemma Moore) plays a prank out of sheer boredom after the seance is underway, she unwittingly disrespects the spirits — as Seylan has warned the group against doing — and opens the door for a malevolent entity to join in.
Bishop, Baxter, Moore, and the other leads — Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, Caroline Ward, and Alan Emrys — all turn in solid performances, especially once scary things start happening. The actors seem genuinely frightened, giving Host that much more of a realistic feel. The supporting cast members are also very good.
Wisely keeping things at a lean-and-mean fifty-something minutes so that the Zoom gimmick does not wear itself out, Savage does a fine job of helming Host on a streaming platform. He gets the most out of characters doing the tried-and-true walking through the house with a weak portable light source, and it works well here, giving the feeling that something horrible could be just around any corner. Working from a script that he cowrote with Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd, Savage builds tension and suspense effectively.
What also helps Host be so effective is its immediacy, especially for viewers living alone during lockdown. Switch off the lights and watch this one late after dark, and see if you don’t find yourself looking over your shoulders at least a few times.
Host is a Shudder Original and is currently streaming on Shudder in the United States, Shudder Canada, and Shudder UK.