The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/Digital] - HOST | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/Digital] - HOST

host movie review
A seance held over Zoom unleashes a malevolent demon.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Rob Savage

Starring: Haley Bishop, Radina Drandova, Edward Linard, Jemma Moore, Caroline Ward, Emma Louise Webb

Host poster

When the world went into lockdown back in March, filmmaking ground to a halt. Well, not entirely. A few clever filmmakers, and a few clever opportunists, found ways to exploit the situation. Almost immediately out of the gate was the crassly exploitative Corona Zombies, followed by more well-intentioned productions like thrillers Quarantine Girl and Where the Others Are, and the Netflix anthology Homemade. In Australia, filmmaker Michael Beets came up with the novel idea of a drama playing out on Zoom, the video conferencing app that has come to define the lockdown era, with his live production In the Shadow it Waits.

host movie review

British director Rob Savage, who made his feature debut aged a mere 18 with 2012's Strings, also employs Zoom for his supernatural thriller Host, which thanks to being picked up by Shudder, has become the most talked about production of our quarantined times.

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Savage lines up his cast of twentysomethings on screen in the manner of the Brady Bunch credits, with six buddies assembled for a Zoom call in which they plan to conduct a seance with the aid of spiritualist Seylan (Seylan Baxter). The level of enthusiasm ranges from the fully committed Haley (Haley Bishop), to the terrified Caroline (Caroline Ward), to the piss-taking Jemma (Jemma Moore) and Teddy (Edward Linard), with nonchalance from Radina (Radina Drandova) and Emma (Emma Louise Webb). When Jemma fools around and makes up a story about feeling the presence of a classmate who hung himself, she unwittingly unleashes a demon that takes the form of the fictional suicide victim, and one by one the Zoomies succumb to its wrath.

host movie review

A mere 12 weeks elapsed from Savage coming up with the concept of Host to its debuting on Shudder. Viewed with such limitations in mind, Host is quite the technical feat. Unable to visit the individual "sets", for obvious reasons, Savage directed the entire movie through online communications with his cast and crew, which makes the FX, which are of the sort we wouldn't normally bat an eyelid at, remarkably impressive in this case. There are shots that will leave you scratching your head as to how Savage pulled them off with such limited resources.

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Once the demon gets to work, Host is essentially a series of set-pieces, which while being technically spectacular given the scale we're dealing with here, suffer from a lack of emotional investment on the audience's part. At a mere 57 minutes, Host certainly doesn't outstay its welcome, but we never get to know any of its protagonists, aside from Jemma, thanks to a standout performance from Moore, who manages to create something tangible from her one-dimensional character. As a result, when the demon starts flinging the girls about like rag dolls, we're more interested in trying to spot the filmmaking strings than in sympathising with their fate.

host movie review

In directly addressing the lockdown, with facemasks donned and talk of the horrors of getting stuck with romantic partners and parents, Host ensures that it's the horror movie du jour, and for that reason it has guaranteed itself an entry in any future horror encyclopaedias. You have to applaud Savage for pulling this off, but it compares poorly to similar movies like Searching and the Unfriended series, which have managed to use the limited real estate of a laptop screen to tell stories that offer more than simply a series of spookhouse set-pieces.

Host is in UK/ROI cinemas and on Digital from December 4th.

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