Host (film)

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Host
Host (film).jpg
Film poster
Directed byRob Savage
Written by
  • Gemma Hurley
  • Rob Savage
  • Jed Shepherd
Produced by
  • Douglas Cox
  • Craig Engler
  • Emily Gotto
  • Samuel Zimmerman
Starring
  • Haley Bishop
  • Jemma Moore
  • Emma Louise Webb
  • Radina Drandova
  • Caroline Ward
Edited byBrenna Rangott
Production
companies
  • Shadowhouse Films
  • BOO-URNS
Distributed byVertigo Releasing[1]
Release date
  • 30 July 2020 (2020-07-30)
Running time
56 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Budget$35,000
Box office$443,807

Host is a 2020 British computer screen supernatural horror film directed by Rob Savage. Host takes place on a screencast of a video call on Zoom, and is presented as a computer screen film. Starring Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova and Caroline Ward, it features a group of friends who attempt to escape a deadly supernatural force inadvertently spawned during a séance.

After a short prank skit by Savage which featured a handful of the Host cast went viral across social media, he developed the concept into a feature-length film, which was shot over 12 weeks directly on the Zoom software during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cast and crew set up their own cameras, lighting, and stunts.

An independent film, Host was released exclusively through Shudder on July 30, 2020. It received largely positive reviews from critics, who praised its themes of social anxiety, its jump scares, and the chemistry of its acting ensemble. It has a notable 100% rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, and was included on Time magazine's list of the "17 Great Movies You May Have Missed This Summer."

Plot[edit]

On July 30, 2020, while the United Kingdom is in COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, a group of friends (Haley, Jemma, Emma, Caroline, Radina & Teddy) have decided to hold weekly Zoom calls to stay in touch. For this week's call Haley has hired a medium, Seylan, to lead them in a virtual séance. Teddy is forced to leave the chat by his girlfriend, Jinny, who unintentionally disconnects him. During the séance, one of the members, Jemma, claims to feel intense tension around her neck. Overcome with fear, she says that somebody called "Jack" is with her, a friend who committed suicide in her school by hanging himself. Seylan's internet cuts out, disconnecting her from the chat. During this time, Jemma informs the group that she made "Jack" up because the silence was getting awkward, which angers Haley. The remaining members of the group begin to experience a strange, terrifying phenomena; Haley's chair is pulled by an unseen force, Caroline sees a hanging corpse in her attic, Haley uses her Polaroid camera to snap a photo of her living room, where a ghostly hanging figure appears on the print and Emma's glass spontaneously breaks.

As the girls panic, Haley manages to get back in touch with Seylan and informs her of everything that has happened; a spirit is indeed with them, but it isn't friendly. Seylan believes and explains that Jemma's prank may have allowed the spirit or demon access to our world, entering the circle during the séance, she also informs the girls of the demonic spirit could be a tulpa which has taken on the guise of "Jack" in Jemma's made-up story, and begins to give them instructions on how to close the séance. The spirit interrupts this by causing more phenomena and something happens in Seylan's background, ending the call again before the girls attempt to close the circle using her advice. Believing the ordeal to be over, the members of the group begin to leave the Zoom call; Radina gets up and leaves the room unaware of her boyfriend Alan’s body hanging behind her. Caroline's artificial background is interrupted as her face is smashed into the camera, causing her laptop to fall. Emma's camera shows one of her filters on an invisible figure in the living room, which turns to face Emma, scaring her. She then scatters flour on the floor, showing the footprints of the spirit coming towards her and causing her kitchen cupboards to burst open before attacking Emma, causing her to hide in her room.

Radina attempts to flee her home after her boyfriend Alan's body drops in front of her, but is pulled away from the door and killed by the spirit. Caroline is killed as she pleads for help when the demon repeatedly smashes her face onto the desk. Haley and Jemma argue, blaming each other for what has occurred, when Haley is pulled off-screen and attacked. Shocked, Jemma, who lives around the corner from Haley, immediately leaves her home to try and help her. Teddy then returns to the call, as ten minutes remain until the Zoom meeting ends. Unaware of everything that has occurred, the spirit (in the form of a horrifying figure) attacks him. Chased through his house, a panicked Teddy witnesses the supernatural murder of his girlfriend Jinny before he himself is set on fire and killed. Emma, now the only person still active in the call, fearfully turns her camera to the doorway of her room after it suddenly opens. She throws a blanket, which lands on the invisible spirit, showing its outline. Terrified, Emma opens her window to flee but accidentally falls to her death.

Jemma arrives at Haley's home and finds that, via the open Zoom call, that both Emma and Teddy are both dead. She is then attacked by the spirit which throws a bottle at her while other supernatural phenomena occur around her. She manages to find Haley hiding under her desk, and the pair attempt to escape the house using the flash of Haley's Polaroid camera to light the way, only for Jack, the invisible spirit to suddenly appear, and rush at them as the Zoom call timer immediately expires.

Cast[edit]

  • Haley Bishop as Haley
  • Jemma Moore as Jemma
  • Emma Louise Webb as Emma
  • Radina Drandova as Radina
  • Caroline Ward as Caroline
  • Edward Linard as Teddy
  • Seylan Baxter as Seylan
  • Jinny Lofthouse as Jinny
  • Alan Emrys as Alan
  • Patrick Ward as Caroline's Dad
  • Jack Brydon as A hanging corpse
  • James Swanton as the Spirit (Jack)

Production[edit]

The film has its basis in a short video created by Rob Savage in early 2020. The short featured Savage investigating strange sounds in his attic while on a group video chat with others. It was initially intended as a prank, as the others were unaware that a frightening visage would pop up on camera, and Savage placed the video online, where it went viral.[2][3] Savage found the format easy to watch and chose to apply it to a feature-length film. He has stated that the short's success enabled him to create Host,[2] after producers contacted him upon seeing the viral video about making a longer film.[4]

Host was filmed while quarantine restrictions were in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Savage had to direct the actors remotely while they had to set up their own cameras, lighting, and stunts.[5] According to Savage, "old school" technology was often used for special effects, with fishing wire being sent to the actors' homes "so they could practice pulling things off shelves".[4] Practical effects were also handled by the actors and a virtual workshop was held on how to set up effects such as "moving doors, making things fly off shelves". Savage has stated that the movie took twelve weeks to complete, from conception to its delivery to Shudder.[6]

According to Jemma Moore, the actors used a film treatment as the basis for their performances, rather than a fully worked-up script, and used improvisation and live feedback from the director during their takes: "It had all the points – they were really fleshed out and detailed – but we improvised around a lot of stuff. And Rob would be typing on Zoom while we’re in the middle of a scene, telling us what to say – it was like live scripting – or he’d private message me". In an attempt to encourage authentic responses by the cast to the film's events, prior to filming the cast participated in a séance over Zoom, and in addition the actors were only given details of their own parts, with the fates of other characters being withheld from them. Savage and Shepherd have mentioned several influences on the film, including The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Lake Mungo and Ghostwatch, and have noted that Host contains references to a number of these.[4]

Release[edit]

Host was released as a Shudder exclusive on July 30, 2020.[7]

Critical response[edit]

Host received widespread critical praise, holding a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 93 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critics' consensus states: "Lean, suspenseful, and scary, Host uses its timely premise to deliver a nastily effective treat for horror enthusiasts."[8] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 7 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[9]

Common praise for Host centered around its themes of social separation and anxiety.[10][11] Comparisons were made between the film and the 2014 horror film Unfriended, which also featured supernatural activity occurring during a group video chat, by outlets such as the New York Times and Rue Morgue.[12][13] Time Magazine named it one of the '17 Great Movies You May Have Missed This Summer,' saying Host is "not only one of the best horror movies of the year, but also an intimate look at creativity, film production and a shared global culture in the throes of a rampaging virus."[14]

Accolades[edit]

Award Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
British Independent Film Awards 2021 Douglas Cox Breakthrough Producer Nominated [15]
Brenna Rangott Best Editing Nominated
Calum Sample Best Sound Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association 2021 Host Best Horror Film Nominated [16]
Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards 2020 Rob Savage Best Independent Film Nominated [17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Host (2020)". BBFC. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b Munday, Rob. "From Zoom prank to feature: The story of Rob Savage's 'Host'". Short of the Week. Retrieved 2020-08-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "How new horror film 'Host' was made on Zoom in lockdown". Yahoo Movies UK. Retrieved 2020-08-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b c Fordy, Tom (16 August 2020). "Zoom, the horror movie: how the Brits behind Host made a chilling lockdown masterpiece". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  5. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (2020-07-07). "Shudder Invokes Quarantine Spirits With Remotely Filmed Horror Film 'Host'". Deadline. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  6. ^ Johnson, G. Allen. "Behind the scenes of 'Host,' a British horror film shot on Zoom". Datebook (San Francisco Chronicle). Retrieved 2020-08-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "First Trailer for Smash Hit Horror Film 'Host' Made Entirely on Zoom". FirstShowing.net. Retrieved 2020-08-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "Host (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 2021-11-28.
  9. ^ "Host Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2021-11-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Lee, Benjamin (2020-07-31). "Host review – surprisingly effective Zoom-based horror". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  11. ^ WHITTAKER, RICHARD (July 31, 2020). "Movie Review: Host". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2020-08-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "Review: "Host" Is The Socially-Distanced Séance Of Your Nightmares". Rue Morgue. 31 July 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ Turner, Kyle (2020-07-30). "'Host' Review: A Zoom Séance Channels Spirits and Melancholy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  14. ^ Berman, Judy. "17 Great Movies You May Have Missed This Summer(2020)". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2020-09-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ "Winners and Nominations · BIFA · British Independent Film Awards". BIFA · British Independent Film Awards. 2020-12-04. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  16. ^ "The 2020 Hollywood Critics Association (HCA) Nominations". Next Best Picture. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  17. ^ "The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards – Honoring the best in classic horror research, creativity and film preservation". rondoaward.com. Retrieved 2021-05-21.

External links[edit]