Zoom and Gloom


by Hope Madden

It was bound to happen, and no doubt the inanely titled Host is the first in a succession of films to tap into quarantine and pandemic frustrations to fuel horror. The fact that co-writer/director Rob Savage employs found footage for his of-the-moment horror show seems even more obvious.

Sometimes, though, it’s the most obvious choices that work out. Savage taps into the real emotional gap between face-to-face and virtual relationships as a handful of mates jump on a Zoom meeting for a bit if fun.

Separated because of lockdown, the buddies decide to create an event: an online séance. Haley (Haley Bishop) is hoping her friends will be respectful of the medium Seylan (Seylan Baxter), but those hopes are dashed when Teddy (Edward Linard) convinces the group to do a shot every time Seylan says “astro plane.”

“It’s astral plane,” Haley sighs.

Naturally, their irreverence is repaid.

Savage treads the same aesthetic as The Den or Unfriended: Dark Web, but in many ways his effort is even more successful—perhaps because it speaks so articulately to our immediate condition. Host is incredibly simple and spooky in the way that it exploits our isolation and the vulnerability that comes with that.

And while the medium itself is hardly groundbreaking and is sometimes irritating, Savage takes advantage of the limitations of found footage horror. The likability of the characters help you suspend disbelief during the portions where they’d clearly have put down the damn computer, and because the film manages to keep your interest, you get to enjoy the spook house effects. A lot of these jump scares are old school fun.

Lean and mean, running a brisk 56 minutes, the film doesn’t busy itself too much with why or how or really even what. Instead it quickly upends our new normal with old fashioned scares.

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