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Host, A Terrifying Horror That Takes Place Entirely On Zoom, Is Streaming Now

by : Cameron Frew on : 03 Aug 2020 13:53
Shudder

Shudder, a streaming service dedicated to all things spooky, has unleashed Host: a nasty, rather terrifying quarantine horror tailored to the empirical Zoom-aissance of 2020.

Once upon a lockdown time, group video chat frustrations ranged from bad internet connections and broken mics to losing the ‘pub quiz’. However, these pickles pale in comparison to Rob Savage’s virtual nightmare, a ‘found footage’ tonic for the cynics, believers and pandemic-fatigued.

In the spirit of Unfriended and Searching, Host never once peers outside the constraints of its humble laptop screen, acting as a non-stop, infectiously watchable portal to the ultimate Zoom meeting gone wrong.

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Check out the trailer for Host below:

The British director, alongside co-writers Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd, gathered a group of actors for an entirely remote production: no in-person direction or advice, with every effect and concept conjured from their individual locations.

Echoing Zoom calls organised aplenty over the past few months, Host follows a group call between six friends, played by Haley Bishop, Radina Drandova, Edward Linard, Jemma Moore, Caroline Ward and Emma Louise Webb.

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While clearly a product of the current pandemic, it’s never alluded to with a wink or abrasive dialogue. Characters are occasionally seen with masks, others mention that ‘you can’t cough these days’ – it’s far more of a snapshot than commentary, enabling an sneakily organic vibe from the off.

Instead of the usual quizzes or general drinks, this group has decided to hire a medium to hold a Zoom-based séance. However, as they’re not all in the same room, they’re warned of reduced protection from any contact and, of course: ‘Don’t disrespect the spirits.’

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Candles lit, wine in tow, their connection with the astral plane begins. Alas, when naive jollity sets in, the group unwittingly invites a malevolent presence into their meeting. Unlike the pseudo-teen woes that plagued the context of Unfriended’s haunting, Host’s focus smartly lies solely in the escalating torment.

Savage may borrow similar imagery to past works – people being flung back on chairs, flash photography in dark spaces, hanging legs – but through the lens of Zoom, they’re rekindled into fresh scares, with sparingly-employed visual effects.

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The incredible craft and direction to make it all possible cannot be understated, as well as its innovations: the end credits are terrific, and you won’t use face filters again in a hurry.

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Not that there’s much time to waste, at a butt-pleasing 56 minutes – a runtime so appetising, in fact, that exciting prospects for Shudder spring to mind: for example, imagine Reddit’s Creepypastas, whether it be The Russian Sleep Experiment or Ben Drowned getting hour-long treatments.

Savage’s vision is awesome, but the cast’s honest-to-god performances completely sell it. Most impressive of the pack are Webb and Ward, whose flickering, upsetting hysteria feels most apt and importantly, seems entirely and unbearably real (one scene vividly mirrors Heather Donahue’s iconic snotty breakdown).

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The found footage era of horror has undergone a number of evolutions, from Rec’s zombie handheld to Paranormal Activity’s more static observation. This marks the first truly frightening use of screen-recorded efforts – Savage could be a new force to be reckoned with.

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Ultra-scary, wicked and genuinely immersive, Host is The Blair Witch Project for the Zoom age.

Host is available to stream on Shudder now. 

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Film and TV, Film, horror, Host, Now, Rob Savage, Shudder, Zoom