Monday, July 27, 2020

Host Review: A Zoom Meeting You Won't Want To Be Late To

Release date: July 30, 2020
Running time: 56 minutes
Starring: Haley Bishop, Radina Drandova, Edward Linard, Jemma Moore, Caroline Ward 

Host, a Shudder original, is the story of six friends who hire a medium to hold a séance over Zoom during lockdown, but they get far more than they bargain for as things quickly go wrong.  When strange occurrances start happening on their group zoom call, the friends fear that they might have called more than they bargained for.  Host was shot entirely during the lockdown due to COVID and as such, deserves a lot of credit from the cast for being flexible.  The film stars Haley Bishop (Deep State), Radina Drandova (Dawn of the Deaf), Edward Linard (The Rebels), Jemma Moore (Doom: Annihilation), Caroline Ward (Stalling It) and Emma Louise Webb (The Crown), who also operated their own cameras, helped pull off their own practical effects, and lit their own scenes. 

Host's main premise has been done before in Unfriended: The Dark Web, which had a similar group call idea.  It also has been seen in other genres, such as in Searching, which took place mostly on a computer.  However, what makes Host unique is that it was filmed entirely during lockdown, with the cast members performing their own camera work.  It is an interesting feat and one that should be applauded as a way to get more content for those stuck at home.  And the actors all do a great job of skirting the line between horror seriousness and zoom silliness.  The characters go through some mixed emotions as they initially do not believe the medium and their spirit occurrences, but that changes as the night continues.  

The zoom influence is apparent throughout. There are several zoom "issues" with the movie that those who have spent a decent amount of time on meetings will appreciate.  From echoes, to dropped calls, to people not being able to figure out the technology, the zoom lifestyle is apparent throughout.  Another aspect that can be appreciated is that because this was shot during lockdown, there are a lot of timely references to our current situation that you don't see in bigger projects.  Host has a timely feeling to it because it was shot during our time.  And although Host relies a lot on jump scares, that is to be expected given the medium.  There are some really good effects and scary moments for a movie shot all over zoom, and there were several unsettling scenes.  If there is one negative with Host it is that the film itself is relatively short at just under an hour.  It would have been nice to have some additional character and scenario development to flesh this out.  Additionally, Host has a lot of generic horror type tropes that are probably due to a quick turn around and also the limited availability of props.  But what you get is a clever use of technology with plenty of hallmarks of our current times.

Host dials in the scares with a clever use of technology, references to the current predicament, and enough jump scares to keep you from dropping out of this zoom meeting.

Watch it.
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