• Through the Trees

Review: Host

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Who's Zooming Who?

Written by Katherine McLaughlin

A few weeks after the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, when those who could work from home were getting to grips with new household dynamics, British director Rob Savage (Strings, Dawn of the Deaf), released a short horror film online that played out entirely over a zoom call. It went viral, and Shudder are now releasing a feature-length version. The result is a terrifying and inventive found footage horror that skilfully builds tension. It’s made all the more impressive by the fact that Savage directed it remotely, with cast members filming from their own homes.

Savage co-wrote the screenplay with Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd, and they infuse it with a witty sensibility that complements the bump in the night scares as a group of friends’ carry out a séance over zoom. The threat of COVID-19 is part of the narrative, with the key characters all confined to their houses and flats and a malevolent threat invading vital lines of communication and the safety of home. What’s even more appealing is the fact that the team behind the film have thought about how the zoom platform operates in such meticulous detail that even the final credits play out with a cheeky wink.

To begin with, it’s all excited chatter, celebration and shots. As anyone who has recently partaken in a virtual group games night can confirm, it’s great to see everyone at first, but a complete drag to work out how to say goodbye when you’re done. A little like Blithe Spirit, not everyone is taking the séance seriously. Hayley (Haley Bishop), who gathered the group together and contacted spirit guide Seylan (Seylan Baxter), is invested, however, and gets increasingly agitated by her friends’ tomfoolery. The rousing and realistic group dynamic is potently brought to life through the fantastic chemistry between the talented cast members.

Host captures the mood of lockdown and the present moment in time where everyone is trying to put on a brave face, but as things get increasingly worse it becomes difficult to hold it all together. Tears are shed, anxieties are summoned, harsh words are exchanged and, towards the end, characters huddle under their blankets hoping they won’t be next. It sits confidently beside recent screen-based horrors such as Unfriended and marks itself out as an exciting update in the found footage subgenre. Just like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity it gleefully delights in scaring the shit out of you.

Available to watch on Shudder.


Director: Rob Savage

Screenwriters: Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd

Cast: Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, Caroline Ward

Distributor: Shudder

Running Time: 56 mins

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