Production Companies: Shadowhouse Films
Director: Rob Savage
Producers: Douglas Cox, Craig Engler, Emily Gotto, Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd & Samuel Zimmerman
Scriptwriter: Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage & Jed Shepherd
Main Cast: Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, Caroline Ward, Teddy Linard & Seylan Baxter
Released: July 30th, 2020
Running Time: 56 Minutes
Host’s decent execution of the video call based horror film doesn’t save it from being any less uninspired and underdeveloped.
The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been easy on the film industry. Initially a lot of films ready to be released were delayed. Films in production or about to start were postponed as the virus took the world by storm. During this, the horror film Host came out. A film made completely within quarantine with the cast and crew producing it while stuck in their own homes. The actors had to do all their own stunts, sort out their lighting and create all the practical effects required. While some of its film-making is impressive, the film is far from being perfect.
Host is about a group of friends who take part in an online séance while under quarantine from the coronavirus pandemic. Weird and sinister events start to occur when the séance goes awry.
Host is a found footage horror film, shown through a zoom call which the group of friends use to carry out the séance. While this isn’t a unique way of framing a found footage film, its technical execution of the format is a little more effective than the Unfriended films, which often suffered from being inconsistent with their logic and realism. With Host, the call does feel more authentic. Its choice to stick completely within Zoom helps it feel less muddled and it definitely does a better job at creating a convincing group of friends. They’re not fleshed out characters, but the chemistry feels more authentic and you can imagine these people being in the same friend group.
Another thing which differentiates itself from Unfriended, is the practical effects which at times can be impressive, especially with the knowledge they had to be created by the actors themselves. Doors opening and contents of rooms being pulled apart all by themselves look pretty convincing. There seems to be a effort made here, this isn’t a soulless product, there is a passion behind the making of this film.
However this doesn’t save Host, because if you take away the video call gimmick there isn’t much substance left. The plot is pure derivative and cliché horror. While you may feel tense while watching, it leaves very little impact. Its shockingly short 56 minute runtime leaves little room for expansive development. So what you end up getting is very by the numbers horror. It feels very much like a student film in the sense that it feels like they approached it simply wanting to make a horror movie and not to tell a unique story. Which sadly means that Host never really becomes its own thing. I got the impression, while watching, that the script was built around a checklist of horror tropes.
A lot of good horror films are unoriginal, but they work around that by being genuinely terrifying and atmospheric. Initially, Host was scary and it felt tense, but as the film went on and relied on jump scares increasingly, I started to get less scared and more fed up. A character hears something. Long silence. Nothing. Another character hears something. Long silence. Scare. Once the initial setup happened that’s how the rest of the film felt to me. A constant rinse and repeat. This isn’t to say a jump scare is the biggest crime a horror film can commit, it has its uses but when it’s the only card up the filmmaker’s sleeves it can get tiring.
While the practical effects help some of the scares, other scary moments are ruined by computer animated effects. One key point is when one of the characters looks in the attic to find a poorly rendered CGI body hanging from a noose. It’s a brief moment but the tackiness of it still ruins the impact of the scene. Which can also be said of the laughably bad scene when a face filter attaches itself to an evil invisible spirit.
One last issue I had with the film is, though I said the main cast’s chemistry is alright, that doesn’t stop them from being underdeveloped and clichéd. It’s another reason why the short run time doesn’t work in the film’s favor, it feels like I’ve barely been introduced to these characters before they all start dying. I didn’t care about these characters because I wasn’t really given any reason to.
While Host pulls off the video call based horror movie well, it lacks identity and is a painfully run-of-the-mill supernatural horror film. Overall, Host shows that there really isn’t much you can do with this format for horror, as its narrative is basically a stripped down version of Unfriended.
Target Audience: Ages 15+
Content: Language, gore and scenes which are frightening
Overall Rating: 4/10 – Disappointing
For more information about Host, click here.