As if the horrors of lockdown couldn’t get any worse Rob Savage’s Host brings the chills firmly into the Zoom world we live in. It seems the one thing worse than being stuck at home is being stuck at home with an evil entity lurking in the digital shadows.
Bored of their isolated existence, six friends decide to hold a seance via Zoom. Amid some early scepticism the group soon realise that something is amiss and before long the things that go bump in the night are causing blood curdling screams.
This is essentially Paranormal Activity for the video-call age. Gone are the fuzzy images of camcorders, replaced with the jittery, glitched-filled world of stuttering internet connection. What the writing team behind Host do so effectively is conjure a sense of reality all too familiar right now. The Zoom call could easily be viewed from the outside as a quick and easy gimmick to shoot a horror film but Host is anything but.
From the outset the chemistry between the friends is utterly believable. They bicker, they drink, they laugh, they share the banality of the lives they have been forced to live. Despite its less than an hour running time, Host draws you in, completely. To the point that when the credits roll at the end you’re likely to find yourself reaching for your mouse to desperately hang-up the call. Great filmmakers seduce you into the language of the film they choose to use and Savage does this to staggering effect.
With well rounded characters and a relatable premise Savage could have easily rested on the concept alone and phoned-in the chills and scares. But Host is a seriously inventive and smart little horror. Okay, the ending is reminiscent of those times when your friend made you lean into a computer monitor before some ghoulish apparition suddenly screamed in your face, but prior to that, it’s compelling and terrifying in all the ways you want it to be.
As the bumps and, “what was that?!” camera pans evolve you soon realise this film isn’t going to let you off easily. And what’s more, you’ve invested in the characters. The cast, without exception, all have you concerned with each and every one of them so you care, worry or even hope something is going to happen to them. Yes, it’s reminiscent of any number of found-footage horrors, at one point The Blair Witch comes screaming back to memory, but it’s always done in such a way as to send a shiver down your spine.
The quintessential lockdown horror story, Host will have you asking people to turn their lights on the next time you’re on a zoom call.