Host (2020)

*. In my notes on Searching I raised an eyebrow at the new genre of “computer-screen film.” I shouldn’t have been surprised about this development though, as so much of our time is spent staring into screens these days, and a lot of the look of such movies is a pretty natural development from the found-footage genre.
*. Enter COVID-19 in 2020, and a prolonged lockdown, and a Zoom-movie was pretty much inevitable as the next step. So much so that the creators here (director Rob Savage and co-writers Jed Shepherd and Gemma Hurley) wanted to move quickly before anyone else struck (as they eventually would). Luckily, such a concept doesn’t take a whole lot of production (the actors came up with their own stunts), and with only an hour to fill they were able to get it all wrapped up in only twelve weeks.
*. The idea here is that a group of young people hold a séance online and a real demon is accidentally summoned. This leads to the usual scary hijinks. And when I say “the usual” I really mean it. There is nothing here that hasn’t been seen many times before. There’s a trip to investigate some bumping noises in the attic (this was the original germ of the film, a staged bit of foolery that Savage did on a group chat that became a viral joke). There are people being dragged screaming backwards. There are footprints appearing in flour thrown on the floor. There’s the demon revealed by the use of a camera flash in a dark hallway. (And if you’re wondering why Haley doesn’t use a flashlight or her phone’s flashlight function instead of the flashbulbs in her camera . . . well, I’m not the one to ask.)
*. Basically Host draws on the whole found-footage tradition, from The Blair Witch Project to Paranormal Activity. The fact that it’s a Zoom meeting is the only curve, and even that isn’t all that new as there’d been horror films before that made use of video chats going awry.

*. That said, I liked Host. It doesn’t do anything new, but what it does do it does well. The cast in particular really stand out. Haley Bishop and Jemma Moore (as Haley and Jemma respectively) are excellent at showing a sense of growing concern. I particularly like the way Jemma pulls her hoodie up as though she’s in bed pulling a sheet over her head. That’s a nice bit of business. And everyone sells their part only using their faces. Not a lot of space for body acting in a Zoom movie!
*. I don’t know how much of the script was improvised. But when the gang tell the girl going into the attic that “we’re right here,” meaning right here online watching her, it struck me as unintentionally comic. That’s not a big help! And every found-footage or shaky-cam movie has the same problem that arrives with the point in the movie where you have to ask “why are they still filming this?” but here it gets taken to a bit of an extreme as the girls carry their laptops around with them everywhere.
*. You know the jump scares are coming, but they still work. And in fact everything here works pretty well. I only wish there’d been a bit more wit and invention. The end credits are perhaps the cleverest I’ve ever seen, and made me wish they’d come up with some more interesting stuff in the rest of the film. But I can’t knock Host for doing what it sets out to do quite effectively. It doesn’t break any ground, or have anything at all to say about the experience of lockdown, but it’s a nice little scary movie to watch on your tablet in the dark.

23 thoughts on “Host (2020)

  1. Bookstooge

    I used to think, about 18months ago, that people could never be this stupid in real life. Then I saw how people reacted to covid and I realized we haven’t even begun to plumb the depths of true human stupidity.

    The next couple of years are going to baaaaaaaad for western civ….

    1. Alex Good

      You mean holding seances over Zoom? It’s a neat idea for a movie, but I don’t know if it’s something that happens a lot in real life. Though I’ll bet somebody’s tried it.

      The next couple of decades are going to be doom for Western Civ . . .

      1. Bookstooge

        yeah, that’s stupid too.

        What I’d like to see is a movie about an ordinary citizen who wipes out Hollywood and their culture of evil. In hollywood fashion, he gets a hold of a nuke from his local grocer or something equally ridiculous :-/

      2. Alex Good Post author

        I still don’t know why I can’t get my hands on one of those suitcase nukes they used to talk about a few years back. You’d think they’d have them at the Kwik-E-Mart by now.

    1. Alex Good

      It seems nowadays that they’ve become so predictable they almost stop being jump scares. I just watched a movie this week where I literally called one a minute in advance, and how it was going to happen. When it gets to that point it just ruins the movie.

      1. Alex Good Post author

        I’d heard it was bad, but I’m honestly blown away by how awful it is. I don’t know how it could be any worse. But I’m only two hours in and I’d better not jinx things.

    1. Alex Good

      Nah. Watched two hours today. I’ll wrap it up tomorrow. It’s 151 minutes! And that’s not even the worst of it. What a freakin’ mess. And it had so much going for it. Just a total waste.

      1. Over-The-Shoulder

        How do you take a break from a film and continue watching it on another day? I would completely lose track. Guess it doesn’t really matter with this one though. It’s a superhero movie – I always expect the worse.

      2. Alex Good Post author

        I just didn’t have the time for this one. I don’t have any trouble picking it up the next day. If I left it for a few days or a week I might lose the thread. But the plot here is kind of hard to miss. I mean, I’m pretty sure I know how it’s all going to play out now anyway.

      3. Alex Good Post author

        She’s gonna lose Steve (again). Beat Kristen Wiig in a big fight. And the Max Lord guy is going to give up the world to be reunited with his kid. That right?

      4. Alex Good Post author

        Well, beating Wiig was a given. I just hope there’s something in the last 30 minutes that picks it up a bit. I’m not hopeful.

      5. Over-The-Shoulder

        Wiig turns into a cheetah, I think? Does that provide hope? Cheetahs are pretty cool. Fastest animal on the planet, according to my vast array of biological books. Preetty cool indeed.

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