Host: Film Review

Host

I have heard nothing but praise about Host in the weeks since it premiered exclusively on Shudder in July and the power of word-of-mouth has taken the film to new heights – it’s now getting a cinema release in the UK!

The British found footage horror film was developed and shot entirely during the Covid-19 lockdown earlier this year, with the cast all communicating from the isolation of their own homes via Zoom. Hoping to spice things up a bit – presumably from Zoom quiz fatigue – Haley (Haley Bishop) and her friends Emma (Emma Louise Webb), Jemma (Jemma Moore), Radina (Radina Drandova), Caroline (Caroline Ward), and Teddy (Edward Linard) hire a medium, Seylan (Seylan Baxter), to host a virtual seance, with fatal consequences.

I was advised to watch this film in the daylight and I didn’t pay attention to this advice – and I should have! Host is genuinely very scary, perhaps even the scariest movie I’ve seen all year (although Saint Maud and Relic come close). I watched it a few days ago and I haven’t been able to shake it off, with certain imagery popping into my mind when I’m trying to sleep. It has effective jump scares – which are tricky to pull off over Zoom – shocking moments, and anxiety-inducing sequences filled with tension and fear. I had such a visceral reaction to it; I jumped, hid behind my hands and told characters “don’t go there/don’t do that” – I was truly involved.

Not many films have a zippy runtime of 57 minutes and I truly recommend it. More like this please! Director Rob Savage had carte blanche on the film’s duration so he picked one which best served the story and Host is all the better for it – it would have been weaker and had less impact if it had been padded out to try to hit 90 minutes, for example. The film is lean, we have a brief introduction of the characters and their relationships and then it gets down to it. Savage has trimmed all the fat so Host doesn’t hang about – when the scares well and truly get going, it doesn’t let go. I’m glad it was short because I don’t think my pounding heart could have handled much more.

There’s some obvious foreshadowing in places but that doesn’t make it any less effective, and normally I would criticise a film for not developing its characters enough as a lack of characterisation generally means I don’t care about anybody, but that wasn’t the case here at all. I actually forgot about that once the action got going, it just doesn’t stop and give you a minute to think about anything else. And you care about them regardless, because they’re in a terrifying situation. I was particularly fond of Caroline – she was the most scared about doing the séance – and Emma, as she gets put through the wringer and gives an amazing performance, although there are no weak links in the cast, who are friends in real life.

Host has become something of a phenomenon and I’m glad it has been picked up so it’ll be seen more widely because a film of this quality deserves to be celebrated by the masses. Savage has landed a Blumhouse deal off the back of Host’s success and he thoroughly deserves it. Host is clever, inventive, timely, and original and shows what can be done within the limitations of lockdown. It is truly terrifying and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. Go check it out!

In selected cinemas and on digital platforms from Friday 4th December

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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