What makes a movie a 'quarantine movie'? What does one entail? Must it come riddled with calls-out to the current zeitgeist? Sputter with exponential detestation at others' witlessness and ineptitude to do the bare minimum? Heaving should it be of macro-commentaries about everything that's been happening in the world?
We have yet to hit the homestretch of self-quarantining, but already there is a movie about it.
Rob Savage's Host – a film that's been shot, written, and produced entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic – delivers greatly on the scares as a supernatural techno-thriller, but fails to echo any of the deeper fears and anxieties everyone feels right now.
The entire film is a forty-minute Zoom call, one that's irreversibly doomed after a seance goes awry. Haley (Haley Bishop) has gathered her girlfriends and a singular guy-friend for a virtual seance, led by Scottish medium, Seylan (Seylan Baxter). The screenplay, written by Savage, Gemma Hurley, and Jed Shepherd, refuses to provide why the group is about to punch a long-distance call to the nether-realm. It seems to imply that it's all for funsies, and that our colorful sextet is in it just to help tide themselves over through the boredom of lockdown.
Savage clearly has no surplus of time to develop these characters fully, so settle he does with character interactions that help fill in some of the dead spaces. Haley's character, for instance, seems irked by a friend's company, and the way that the group cautiously reacts to a spat between a couple, for another, offer at least something for us to work with.
These are all atop the fact that Host even exists. The logistical nightmare it must have taken to film remotely in at least six different locations is as gnarly as the monster that haunts Haley & co. Pushed forth by the raving success of his Zoom prank video – inarguably the more interesting piece – the film feels like a bigger, less impressive offshoot of its viral counterpart (David F. Sandberg's Lights Out comes to mind).
Savage appears to be proficient with his scares, mounting a creeping sense of dread in every set-piece. Less reliant on UI elements than, say, Unfriended, the film draws the focus on the video chat itself, which gives the uncanny feel that you're inside the very same Zoom call.
Though spare in story and character, Host is a vibrant addition to what should already be an exhausted subgenre of on-screen found-footage.
2020 // Shudder
Direction: Rob Savage
Screenplay: Rob Savage, Gemma Hurley, Jed Shepherd
Cast: Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Seylan Baxter, Emma Louise Webb, Caroline Ward, Radina Drandova
'Host' delivers greatly on the scares as a supernatural techno-thriller, but fails to echo any of the deeper fears and anxieties everyone feels right now.