Review: 'Host' (2020) Dir. Rob Savage
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
A short, simple and effective horror born out of a real-world pandemic proves that even the most ordinary film-making can be ultra effective for the right genre.
While surviving COVID-19 quarantine restrictions and inability to meet in person, six close friends arrange a virtual séance from their own rooms.
Everything stars off ok and connecting via Zoom helps boost their spirits, it soon becomes clear not everything is as expected, and not everyone will survive the night...
The first film to come direct from the COVID-19 pandemic, this "web cam" footage horror is taken direct from using our unknown actors across Zoom video calls. It's nothing but original, tapping into the most current of a global situation - separation anxiety, distance and fear. Mixing this with the highly tense and unnatural horror genre, it strips away all of the usual frills and focuses on nothing but the ordinary, the everyday and the diegetic.
No soundtrack, no CGI, no sharp cinematography. Just a virtual connection via Zoom that we are mostly all familiar with, shaky internet connections, nerve-shredding silences and wrestling with if you think your mind is playing tricks in the presence of friends.
Director and co-writer Rob Savage brings inspiration from the original found-footage horror film 'The Blair Witch Project', removing all the Hollywood excess in filmmaking to deliver the most chilling and unnerving story rooted in the everyday that makes it as real and chilling as possible. Savage uses the biggest fear tactic - silence. There are many moments of silence during the séance where you're waiting for something to happen, and you think it will happen, but it doesn't...and then something else does. And all the while this is just cut between six Zoom screens and our bevvy of actresses, all acting as the "lead" role, with not one fronting this more than the other.
The girls (Bishop, Moore, Webb, Drandova and Ward) are the everyday faces of friends you have, living their own lives and finding strength in their close relationships. From starting off care free and fill of giggles, they soon end up a shadow of their former selves. The performances are chillingly real, and you will be hard-pressed to see the acting from the natural reactions.
You can't look away or find something else to try and focus on; you are connected for an hour and only have themselves for company, and you can only see a closed space around them with nothing but diegetic lamps, candle light and screens to help illuminate the room. It's more effective when the camera is turned into the P.O.V shot, and then you really are forced to watch, wait and prepare for whatever is coming next as the dark magic (and growing horror) intensifies. And thanks to the natural reactions and moods of our leads, you'll feel as if you're the other friend on the call watching this live, but helpless all the same.
Framed in the setup of a Zoom call, this never veers away from the connection, so you see it when calls enter and leave, the pop-ups for those talking or making noise, and even the credits are played out in Zoom making this brilliantly original.
Savage and the girls use practical effects and tricks to deliver the majority of scares and horrific moments. Thankfully, the less you see makes for real palm-sweaty stuff. The senses work against you, as it does our friends, and you soon start to question everything you see and everything you hear. No flying ghosts around the room or zombies bashing at the window - this is grounded in a dark reality exploring the spirit world and just what REALLY could happen, or does happen, when hosting a party like this goes wrong.
'Host' is a perfect example of how collaboration, attention to detail and planning, even in a lockdown, proves that art can come from the very basic, the very simple and the very relatable to deliver maximum shocks and scares.
'Host' is a Shadowhouse Films production