• Daniela Urzola

Host: Horror in the age of the pandemic

With just the right amount of jump scares and the perfect running time, Host shows what horror can achieve with a simple story in technology-driven times.

Host (Rob Savage, 2020) DP: Kim Hyung-koo

Directed by Rob Savage, Host is a Shudder original that premiered only a couple of months ago during quarantine. The British horror film follows six friends who hire a medium to have a séance through a Zoom call and, well, you can imagine the rest… Even with a little bit of skepticism due to my rejection of found footage films, I was extremely excited to watch this film, as it has been widely acclaimed since its release, even reaching a score of 100% in Rotten Tomatoes. I must say I was pleasantly surprised and frightened at the same time.

I’ll say it again: I’m not a huge fan of found footage. Really, I think it might me my least favorite subgenre -with the exception of Rec, which is one of the films that has scared me the most in my entire life, but that’s a story for another time-. However, I found Host to be scary and effective and I think a lot of it has to do with its running time. Not only was it a smart decision to make the film last what a Zoom call actually lasts, but the fact that the movie runs for a little less than an hour works greatly to its favor. I think the problem with most found footage films lies in the fact that they usually last as long as a regular film, and that often renders the story boring, slow-paced, and filled with a lot of unnecessary scenes/dialogues/details, while having very few successful scares. Host is what it is, and it delivers exactly what you need; no more, no less.

Host isn’t the first movie to place a horror story in the setting of a Zoom/Skype/whatever other platform call. If you’ve seen Unfriended (Levan Gabriadze, 2014), you’ll know it’s almost inevitable to watch Host without thinking or comparing it to its predecessor. The 2014 film about a group of friends that begin to be haunted by a vengeful ghost during a Skype call did not have the best reception from the critics nor the audience. I’m not gonna lie, I actually did like and enjoy it back when I saw it, even when I recognize it’s not the best of films. However, though it may seem like it follows the same path, Host really does stand out and I think, ultimately, it achieves what Unfriended quite couldn’t.

I would argue that this is because of three reasons: One, unlike Unfriended’s plot, Host’s story is simpler, and it doesn’t center around the characters’ backgrounds, which makes more room for the actual scary part of the film. Two, on a technical note, the use of POV gives a tremendous advantage to Host, adding an amazing dose of suspense that Unfriended seems to lack. And three, overall, the jump scares were a lot cleverer and more well-done. This last aspect is particularly outstanding, because the actors were directed remotely and they had to learn how to make each of their own practical effects, which I think goes to show how remarkable a production can be without necessarily being a Christopher Nolan film.

Now, this is the part where my review becomes more of an appreciation post. I actually watched the movie while on a Zoom call with my friends, all of us connected from different corners of the world (Argentina, Colombia, California, and Spain). Yes, we are nerds and c’mon, it doesn’t get any more meta than this, so we weren’t gonna miss the opportunity. It was a throwback to the best of times, when we all lived in the same city and used to gather around each Friday night to rent the corniest B-movie we could find and watch horror together at one of our parents’ places. I must say I owe a lot of my passion for film and horror to this group of people (*queue the tears*). So, watching it together, connected through the same application used in the movie, was equal parts sentimental and terrifying.

If you haven’t watched Host, do it. And if you can do it with friends, even better. Host is the horror film we needed during the pandemic. It’s simple yet scary, often cheesy yet smart, both original and entertaining. And even if it might not go down in the history books of horror, it’s a film that speaks of the times we live in, and it does so in an exceptionally chilling way.

Available on: Shudder (US, UK)

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