Shudder Original: Host (2020)

Host is not going to age well.

Actually that’s not true, because Host is already many years out of date. In the world of Coronavirus it was only a matter of time before we got a cheap horror movie shot entirely in quarantine, and that film is Host. Brought to us by the fantastic director Rob Savage best known for jack shit you’ve ever seen, Host is a horror movie shot entirely on Zoom.

Yea, we’re doing one of those films again.

Host feels like Rob Savage said “how many played out tropes can we stuff into an hour long movie?” It’s like the film equivalent of the chubby bunny game, except everything is stale and nobody wins. The film stars a cast of actors who all use their real first names as their characters presumably because nobody wanted to edit their Zoom profiles or because the film was made up on the spot and keeping track of seven different fake character names would be too hard.

One positive thing I will say about Host is that the acting is very well done and very believable. We get to a point in the film where everyone is crying and screaming and their faces are just soaking wet with tears and snot and spit and it’s great. That’s how you know an actor can sell a shot, when they’re crying and they’ve got snot flowing and they’re still in it for the quality of the art.

Otherwise the film is kinda shit.

Imagine every trope that’s been done in horror films and you’ve got Host. Stuff like characters getting dragged out of a room by an invisible hand should’ve been done with when Paranormal Activity did it. The big issue I have with these tropes isn’t so much that they are stale and overplayed, but the movie acts like we’ve never seen them before and the wind up is so long that it just drags out each scare to the point where most of them become boring.

The threadbare plot is that our characters are all staying inside during the quarantine and decide to have a seance. Before the seance begins our medium Seylan (Seylan Baxter) warns the crew that they should not disrespect the spirits because bad things could happen if they do. Jemma (Jemma Moore) decides to fake a dead friend and pretend that she is having a paranormal experience because she’s screwing with the medium and bored. Haley (Haley Bishop) is the only one who is taking it seriously at the start.

Naturally this causes a spirit to appear who starts messing in the usual horror fashion. The spooks start out making stomping noises or turning on lights, and eventually it elevates to tearing rooms apart and just killing off the cast one by one. The explanation for this is as bad as the set up, with Seylan revealing that by creating the fake persona, Jemma opened the door to allow any spirit no matter how evil it might be to enter through.

The second positive that I will say is that the effects are well done considering the circumstances of the film being this rinky dink operation likely shot out of the actor’s homes. I really tried to take this as seriously as possible, and the movie does do a great job of setting up the atmosphere where you have this long period from when the seance starts and it’s kinda up in the air as to whether or not it’s actual haunting or just in the character’s minds.

This atmosphere dies when Haley does the Paranormal Activity dragged out of the room. I’m also disappointed that they didn’t go down the route I thought they would with Caroline. Caroline has a background on Zoom which is a video of herself walking into the room and brushing her hair. I expected that at some point in the film the Zoom background Caroline would become real and attack the actual Caroline, but that didn’t happen.

Rob Savage is free to use that in the sequel if he sees this review.

With its references to quarantine, masks, and social distancing I can’t see Hosts being relevant in a year from now. Actually with its tired outdated horror tropes and predictable scares I can’t see Hosts being relevant right now. It is exactly the kind of schlock that I tune in to Shudder to see, so really I can see this film getting good reviews just because it knows exactly what audience it’s playing to.

I did take off points for the ending jump scare being stupid, drawn out, and utterly predictable.

The surprisingly decent acting definitely brings this up in score.

Rating: B-

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