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Saturday, August 1, 2020

Review: Host

Director: Rob Savage
Screenplay: Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage, and Jed Shepherd
Year: 2020

During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how several sectors have been severely affected, and horror cinema has not been an exception. The recommendations and restrictions proposed by health organizations and the different governments have made it difficult being able to prepare a movie appropriately and have also affected release dates of those movies that have already been filmed because of the security protocols in cinemas. However, there are always people who rise in the face of adversity and use their inventive to overcome limitations, and this is just what “Host” does.

A group of friends gets ready for their weekly Zoom meeting, an activity they practice since the lockdown periods caused by the COVID-19 pandemic started. This meeting is poised to be different from the rest by the mere fact that they will hold a seance. The seance doesn’t go according to plan, and when they all start experimenting paranormal phenomena, they suspect they have released something dangerous.

In a fleeting 56 minutes of runtime, the director Rob Savage (“Strings”)  presents a movie recorded entirely through the virtual conferencing platform Zoom, used to its full potential even using filters and backgrounds. This idea of recording a movie through a computer is not new, and we have seen it in films such as “Unfriended” and the awful “The Possession Diaries”, but Savage restricts his plot to the actual pandemic situation. Not only does it achieves is one of the movies that have used this technique most effectively, but it also immortalizes a historical moment that I hope that in some time we can look back at and feel proud of what we overcame.

Simplicity is the secret behind the tension that “Host” generates. Since the start, it sends vibes reminiscent of “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project” and definitively borrows ideas from both films, like the lack of background music or making the situation as realistic as possible to make the viewer part of the story. The also use the idea of powder on the floor and other details inspired in both movies. “Host” shows how sometimes less is more and how with so few well-used elements, plenty can be accomplished.

Once the paranormal events start taking place, the special effects and how they are creatively presented or omitted through the conference platform take center stage. Situations that seem to be simple are shown, but that showcases plenty of creativity and effort to achieve them and leaves you thinking about how they were made. These scenes, along with the excellent acting from the cast starring Haley Bishop (“Angel Has Fallen”), Jemma Moore (“Doom: Annihilation”), Emma Lousie (“The Crown”), Radina Drandova y Caroline Ward keep the viewer at the edge of its seat through its full duration.

“Host” makes the most of the actual situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to display the talent of all those involved in its production and shows that limitations are nothing more than opportunities to exercise creativity. With simple ideas but a flawless execution, they manage to create one of the tensest and compelling movies of the year. The best example of its effectiveness is the well-placed jump scares that promise to force a scream out of even the most veteran of horror fanatics.

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