It may feel like we’ve been in quarantine for 1000 years, but believe it when I say we’ve only been at this since March. So much has happened in our streets, societies, and Twitter feeds since then — but inside our homes, it’s been pretty quiet. Netflix binges (..was Tiger King just a mirage?), uber eats over-ordering under the guise of ‘supporting local businesses’, and (sometimes drunk) zoom calls with friends from afar. 5 months. It’s only been 5 months.
That’s all it took for horror streaming juggernaut Shudder to manifest the quarantine horror film Host, a found-footage style horror set entirely on zoom. Directed by Rob Savage (Dawn of the Deaf), who wrote the script alongside Gemma Hurley and Jed Sheppard, Host is the first completed horror feature to come out of quarantine. (It also might be the first creative accomplishment during quarantine in general, who knows?). The entire film was shot remotely in the actors’own homes — who operated their own cameras, pulled off their own special effects, and lit their own scenes.
“Full of chills, thrills, and screen-defying frights..”
Host follows a group of friends who conduct a socially-distanced seance, manifesting a spirit who doesn’t want to keep 6ft away… Full of chills, thrills, and screen-defying frights, Host is the perfect horror movie to kickstart another Friday night at home. You’d better add a nightlight to your Amazon cart now.
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Six friends, played by Haley Bishop (Deep State), Radina Drandova (Dawn of the Deaf), Edward Linard (The Rebels), Jemma Moore (Doom: Annihilation), Caroline Ward (Stalling it), and Emma Louise Webb (The Crown), sign on for a night of remote fun. With the help of a medium, the group work together-apart to have a seance, invite those who have passed on to send them messages from the beyond. But after one of the girls pulls a prank and creates a false spirit, the seance becomes feeding grounds for something much more sinister. With shoddy connections and cellphone trouble, the seance goes even further off the rails when the medium signs off before the seance can be completed and the door to the spirit world can be properly closed.
“Host keeps the scare factor high, constantly raising the stakes and upping the ante with creepy setups, sounds, and spectres.”
Host keeps the scare factor high, constantly raising the stakes and upping the ante with creepy setups, sounds, and spectres. Savage harnesses the very mechanics of Zoom to help deliver the story, alternating between grid-style sequences and the cycling camera, both knowing when to direct our eyes to a particular screen or leave us wandering. The six simultaneous stories, and ultimately, the six simultaneous hauntings, gives us plenty to gawk at. But the film isn’t afraid of silent darkness, either. We get to explore spooky sounds in the attic, get photographic evidence down dark halls, and explore all of the creative manifestations this haunting has conjured up.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of found footage and screen-horrors. The sub-genre’s unique ability to ascend the screen and expand the illusion between reality and fiction into the very medium is an entirely unique experience. Every found footage film is an opportunity to play pretend, and Host utilizes a universal setting (and bummer) to justify the ‘never-turn-off-the-camera’, ‘capture-everything’ style found footage is so often criticized for; quarantine. Host is quite possibly the most well-justified found footage horror to ever exist. Our characters, existing within the very same quarantine we find ourselves stuck in, must interact remotely. Many of them are completely isolated in their own apartments, desperately clinging to the screens of their friends to feel some fleeting semblance of “we’re experiencing this together”.
Host succeeds in creating a terrifying illusion, and it might just become a new staple for the found footage genre as a whole. Horror again proves itself able to transcend the shittiest of situations into a creative, entertaining way to experience togetherness (and pee-your pants terror!)