Saturday, 1 August 2020

Shudder Saturday: Host (2020)

People will look back at 2020 and view it with the right amount of bewilderment that it deserves. A global pandemic changed pretty much everything, from our views on the whole financial system to our movie-viewing schedules. So many companies suddenly realised that they could allow staff to work from home, so many idiots suddenly viewed important health advice as an attempt to trample over their human rights, and we have all started to work together to stay apart. It's not all been bad though. The volunteers have stepped up, random acts of kindness or entertainment have reminded me of the good in humanity, and creative people have found ways to create within a much smaller world, and with much more limited resources.

Host is a short horror movie (runs at just over 50 minutes) created during lockdown. It's all about a group of people, mostly women, who get together on a Zoom chat to try and experience an online seance. Things inevitably start to get a bit creepy, and viewers end up watching the participants being terrorised in their homes.

The cast all do very good work here, believable for every moment of this Zoom "meeting". I'll namecheck most of them - Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, and Caroline Ward. They all play characters with then same first names, which makes everything easier, and probably helped to keep the tech side of things a lot simpler. Nobody really stands out, because the strength of the film lies in the concept and execution, but it's a pleasant surprise that nobody stands out as being too awful. That includes Alan Amrys, Edward Linard, and Seylan Baxter, who leads the way in the ceremonial proceedings, and offers guidance. The cast may not be star-studded, but most of the faces onscreen will be vaguely familiar to those who watch plenty of movies.

I'm not familiar with any other works from director Rob Savage, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd, but I'll certainly check out what else he has in his filmography, and would watch whatever he does next. Host has ingenuity and an enjoyable selection of scares, and it provides one hell of a calling card for all involved, no matter where they are already at in their careers.

There are one or two too many jump scares, as so often happens with films done in what is essentially "found footage" style, but they're easier to accept and enjoy when done as well as they are here. I'm not too proud to admit that Host got me on a few different occasions. I was very nervous by the time the final scenes were playing out, and while I waited for what was surely going to be one big final "boo" moment.

Lockdown may now be over, sort of (let's be honest, the conflicting advice and details from the government here in the UK don't exactly fill many people with confidence), but you may still be trying to find ways to fill some time, for a variety of reasons. If you have a spare hour, check this out. It's well worth your time.


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