Host Blu-ray Review
Despite the many hardships we’ve faced in the past 12 months, one thing that can be said is that for some, lockdowns have nurtured creativity. In between the many people deciding to finally learn the ukulele, and the countless more who have graduated Netflix, burnt their home-schooling documents in a pyre, or accessed a Zoom meeting with a suit jacket over their pyjamas, a few have taken the time to do something really special.
With Host, director Rob Savage has done just that, progressing the computer-screen based storytelling we saw in Aneesh Chaganty’s brilliant Searching, and transplanting that to the format and restrictions of a single Zoom call (cut off at an hour because, of course, no-one wants to pay for it). Host takes a step sideways from thriller to horror, as a group of friends decide to partake in an online séance. The film was entirely directed over Zoom, as it was conceived and shot during the first pandemic lockdown.
Haley (Haley Bishop) invites a group of friends to join her and Seylan (Seylan Baxter) for a séance via Zoom. Jemma (Jemma Moore), Emma (Emma Louise Webb), Radina (Radina Drandova) and Teddy (Edward Linard) all join with the intention of mostly having a laugh, and drinking any time anyone mentions the astral plane. Seylan warns the group that due to the distant nature of the séance, they won’t be as protected as usual, and that for this reason they must respect the spirits. This of course sounds quite silly in concept, and the cast play up to this as most people would, with one member doing something that places them all in jeopardy. The characters are believable normal people, and each one acts in a fashion you would expect. They fit into personality types we can immediately recognise amongst our own friends, meaning very little time is wasted introducing them and developing their relationships to each other, as it isn’t necessary.
With tonal similarities to Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s Rec, you could be forgiven for thinking in the first twenty minutes that you won’t be unnerve.Except, you'd be wrong. The action escalates slowly from sliding chairs, to extreme physical violence as each member is attacked one by one. The scares themselves aren’t anything we haven’t seen before, with polaroid camera flashes on computer screens giving gradual reveals of what the others can see. But the low resolution of the screen images has you leaning in to puzzle out whether you are simply seeing distortion or a glimpse of something more sinister in the background. You feel as though you are an invisible participant of the call, bringing you right into the action and encouraging the anticipation that at some point, what is happening on your screen will start happening in your own home.
It is made more real by the occasional references to the current COVID pandemic, including various notes of concern when one person coughs innocently, and the familiarity of Zoom glitches involving people being cut-off and trying not to talk over each other. It is also one of the few films that really lends itself to being watched on a computer screen or a tablet, as you can feel yourself being pulled further into the call. Host is a charming, enjoyable and snappy little horror with some genuine scares. The short runtime means it constantly builds tension, incorporating the occasional jump scare, ultimately building towards it’s horrifying conclusion.
Host is available on Special Edition Blu-ray from February 22.
- New exclusive commentary by Director Rob Savage and Producer Douglas Cox
- New exclusive cast commentary
- New exclusive cast interview
- Behind-the-Scenes feature
- 'Is There Goblins Now?' the original prank video
- 'Kate Scare' prank video test run
- Rob Savage's short films Dawn of the Deaf and Salt
- The Host Team Séance
- BFI Q&A with Rob Savage, Gemma Hurley, Jed Shepherd, Douglas Cox, Haley Bishop, Brenna Rangott, Caroline Ward
- Evolution of Horror interview with Rob Savage, Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd
LIMITED EDTION CONTENTS
- Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Thomas Walker
- Perfect-bound booklet with the original story outline and new essays by Ella Kemp and Rich Johnson
- 6 collectors' art cards