We had to expect that, sooner or later, a movie would be created during lockdown over Zoom, and it’s only fitting that during this nightmarish time in history, it’s a horror flick. Refreshingly though, rather than dwell on the virus itself, which would have been the obvious choice for director Rob Savage—and definitely the more depressing choice—Host takes the classic “haunting” premise, combines Paranormal Activity scares with Unfriended social media flair, and pieces it all into today’s context, resulting in an entertaining and spookily relevant thrill ride.
Inspired by a prank that Savage pulled on his friends over Zoom, using his own house and a cleverly inserted clip of the Spanish film Rec, Host is about a virtual seance that goes haywire when one of the friends accidentally summons a demonic spirit. (Don’t you hate it when that happens?). It actually stars these same friends and essentially had them working as their own cinematographers and producers, with a little help from stunt experts.1. That’s right, for those of you who were concerned: the filming of this movie was responsibly distanced. Despite this, the references to Covid-19 in the movie are quite subtle, and do not at all take away from the genuineness of the movie. In fact, the acting is so great, it’s like you’re on the Zoom call with the six friends.
I was skeptical at first because a Zoom horror movie really felt like a cash in, but Host left me pleasantly surprised. It is proof that a low budget movie can pay off, and at the same time, that jump scares don’t always come cheap. The movie is a mere 57 minutes (a bit longer than a free Zoom meeting), and it is paced perfectly, leaving room for suspense but not boredom. I especially liked how all of the friends’ cameras are positioned so that there are doorways or hallways behind them. I was constantly staring into the dark, dreading the arrival of our new demon friend.
Now the question is, will Host fall victim to being a product of its time and be largely unknown in the future? Possibly. But isn’t that what a lot of us love about horror movies? Like the cheeseball monster movies of the 50’s or the campy 80’s slashers? I hope, as my friends and I float in our space pods and strap into our VR body suits for our weekly movie night, which we arranged through messaging via telepathic brain chip technology, that we can look back on the Zoom era of movies and appreciate the creativity that came out of it.
Five Zoom Feelings and Faux Pas:
That “thank god I’m done with this s***” look someone gets between saying goodbye and leaving the meeting
That older coworker who takes up half the time talking about her newfound obsession with Pokémon Go
The friend’s cat who keeps jumping on their desk and presenting their butthole to the camera
That feeling that someone has pinned your video and is staring at you even though you’re not talking
When you mute yourself, turn off your video, and go to the bathroom with your laptop so you don’t miss anything but then you’re immediately asked for your input