Host – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 56 minutes, Director – Rob Savage

A group of friends find themselves attacked by angered spirits when a Zoom séance goes wrong.

It’s undeniable that at some point a horde of films are going to drop relating to lockdown and the pandemic – Ben Wheatley is already preparing to release one. Host – the directorial debut of Rob Savage – was one of the first to drop earlier this year on streaming platform Shudder, becoming a quick hit it now finds itself with a cinema release – plus pre-recorded Q&A, due to the short run-time. Taking a similar line to the likes of 2015’s Unfriended all the action takes place on a screen, throughout the border of a Zoom call surrounds the frame. What starts off as an amusing night for a group of friends soon turns into terror as they find themselves attacked by angered spirits.

It’s impressive that the practical effects of the film were all setup by the cast in their individual homes during a pandemic. But, more impressive is the fact that they’re genuinely scary. As the film goes along the spirits that attack – due to one member of the group lying about a ghost communicating with them – seemingly get more and more enraged. Tormenting the central group. Through jump scares, tension and the occasional haunting Zoom filter and background the piece becomes more and more intense as it goes on. 

You feel the genuine fear and tension of the girls, all relatively new actors who give great performances, who initially just wanted to have a fun evening and instead find themselves fighting for their lives restricted to their homes. While only 56 minutes long Savage wastes no time when the horror properly kicks in. This is a rare film where you’re left wincing, hiding behind your hands, you won’t trust anything close to you afterwards, in terror at what might happen next. Meanwhile, at other points you find your eyes glued to the screen in pure, seat-clutching fright.

You know jump scares are coming yet they’re still effective. Otherwise the film subverts expectations, with a bigger impact from somewhere else. All acts become a worst case scenario as you too feel trapped and helpless, trapped on the screen of a Zoom call. A feeling pushed even further by Savage’s finely tuned pacing, never missing a beat throughout. Add to the mix a fairly realistic feel, the film plays out in real-time, and a bit of humour at the start as the film settles itself in and it feels uncomfortably genuine. Boosting the scare factor and making for the scariest film of 2020, and a strong contender for one of the best of the year.

Savage turned this film in, from short film to finished product, in 12 weeks. 12 weeks to make a film that has all the marks of a finely crafted, carefully thought-through, layered horror. It’s tense, terrifying and will leave you wary of everything around you long after the credits, which have their own unsettling feel, are over. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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