Thursday, July 30, 2020

Shudder: Host

Fifteen or twenty years from now, oblivious teenagers will ask us why we watched so many zoom-based movies back in the day. We will have to explain to them it was because the CCP had no regard for human life and because the WHO only cared about pleasing their Chinese pay-masters. The quarantined format will surely get old and tired quickly, but this Shudder original has the advantages of not coming too late for the party and bringing a good gimmick. Doing a Zoom séance sounds like an extremely bad idea, but in the alternate reality of horror movies, sure, we can totally buy it. When Haley invites her friends to a video-conferencing spiritualism session, things go rather badly in Rob Savage’s Host, which premieres today on Shudder.

Haley is the one who really believes in the astral plane stuff and knows Seylan, the psychic. She doesn’t mind her friends incorporating a healthy amount of drinking into their evening, but she would like them to take it seriously. Oh, they will take it seriously alright—deadly so. It will be their own stupid faults for not treating the spirit realm with respect.

Yeah, you get the idea, but the claustrophobic and quarantined settings make it surprisingly creepy. Due to social distancing restrictions, Savage directed the entire ensemble remotely, but that gave him the perfect “laptop” perspective on the action.
Host only runs for about an hour, but Savage was wise not to pad it out. He builds up quite a bit of tension, without giving us time to ponder whether or not Zoom windows can constitute proper cinema.

He also gets key assists from his ensemble, as thesps, but even more importantly, as their own practical effects artists. There is a lot of stuff flying, breaking, and generally going bump-in-the-night, but it all looks good on-screen. They are also pretty believable panicking and freaking out. As her psychic namesake, Seylan Baxter has a particularly intriguing screen presence, in a genre appropriate way.

is short, but it is lean, mean, and genuinely scary. Savage definitely proves his resourcefulness as a filmmaker (one wonders if he studied Jafar Panahi’s films made during his house-arrest) and Shudder demonstrates their nimbleness getting such an of-the-now production so quickly on their platform. Recommended for horror fans and zeitgeist-followers, Host starts streaming today (7/30), on Shudder.