Host (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Release poster
Directed byRob Savage
Written by
  • Gemma Hurley
  • Rob Savage
  • Jed Shepherd
Produced by
  • Douglas Cox
  • Craig Engler
  • Emily Gotto
  • Samuel Zimmerman
  • Haley Bishop
  • Jemma Moore
  • Emma Louise Webb
  • Radina Drandova
  • Caroline Ward
  • Edward Linard
  • Seylan Baxter
Edited byBrenna Rangott
  • Shadowhouse Films
Distributed byShudder (international)
Vertigo Releasing (United Kingdom)
Release dates
  • 30 July 2020 (2020-07-30)
(United States)
  • 4 December 2020 (2020-12-04)
(United Kingdom)
Running time
56 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$443,807

Host is a 2020 British independent supernatural horror film directed by Rob Savage and written by Savage, Gemma Hurley, and Jed Shepherd. A computer screen film that takes place entirely on a Zoom video call, it follows a group of friends who attempt to escape a demon they inadvertently summoned during an online séance.

After a short prank video by Savage which featured a handful of the film's cast went viral, 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 members were in charge of their own cameras, sound, makeup, lighting, and stunts, with Savage directing them remotely from his own home. The film was released via the American streaming platform Shudder on 30 July 2020, with a British release date of 4 December 2020 being arranged by Vertigo Releasing. It received positive reviews from critics, who praised its themes of social anxiety, its use of jump scares, and the cast's chemistry. It was a commercial success, earning $443,807 against a budget of $100,000.


During a July 2020 COVID-19 lockdown in London, friends Haley, Jemma, Radina, Emma, Caroline, and Teddy join the weekly Zoom call they have been using to stay in touch. Haley has arranged for them to partake in a virtual séance led by the medium Seylan, who emphasises that they should not disrespect the spirits, though only Haley takes it seriously. Teddy is forced to leave the call when his girlfriend Jinny disconnects him. Jemma claims to feel intense tension around her neck and begins to cry, explaining that she feels the presence of a school friend who killed himself by hanging. Seylan's internet cuts out and disconnects her from the call, prompting a laughing Jemma to admit to the group that she made her deceased friend up because she was getting bored, which angers Haley. The remaining members begin to experience terrifying phenomena: Haley's chair is violently pulled backwards by an unseen force, the legs of a hanging corpse briefly appear in Caroline's attic when she goes to investigate a noise, and Emma's wine glass shatters even though nobody is holding it. Haley points her instant camera down the hallway to take a photo of her living room, which shows a ghostly figure hanging from the ceiling.

As the girls panic, Haley manages to get back in touch with Seylan and tell her what happened, prompting Seylan to ask the spirit a series of yes or no questions; using this method, she quickly confirms that the spirit is not a friendly one. Seylan explains that Jemma's prank, which involved fabricating a deceased person, may have led a tulpa to take on the guise of the deceased person and wear his identity like a mask that allows the demon to pass into the world of the living. She gives them instructions on how to close the séance, but the demon interrupts her and she is disconnected again before the girls attempt to close the circle using her advice. Relieved that the ordeal seems to be over, the members of the group begin to leave the call. Radina leaves the room, unaware of her boyfriend Alan's body hanging behind her. Caroline's Zoom background, which shows a looping video of her doing chores, continues playing as the real Caroline suddenly has her face smashed into the camera. Forgetting to switch off a filter that superimposes masks and face paint onto her, Emma turns her camera towards her living room, where the filter places a kabuki mask on an invisible figure which then turns to look at her. She runs away and scatters flour on the floor, showing the footprints of the demon approaching her. Her kitchen cupboards burst open before the demon attacks her, but she escapes into her bedroom.

Radina attempts to flee after Alan's body drops down behind her, but the demon kills her by throwing her into the wall. Noticing that Caroline is typing gibberish in the chat, Haley and Jemma watch as her camera turns back on to show her being killed by the demon repeatedly smashing her head into her keyboard while she pleads for help. Haley and Jemma argue and blame each other before Haley is pulled out of the room. Jemma, who lives around the corner from Haley, immediately leaves her home to help. Teddy returns to the call to see that only Emma remains, and a warning pops up to remind the group that the call will end in 10 minutes unless they upgrade to the premium version of Zoom. Unaware of everything that has occurred, Teddy believes Emma is pranking him, but he is attacked by the demon after it takes the form of a horrifying humanoid figure. He is chased into his garden, where he sees Jinny being lifted into the air before her neck is snapped and her body falls into the swimming pool. He runs away and hides, using a lighter to see where he is going, but the demon distracts him with an eerie music box his brother used to prank him with as a child. The demon then knocks him down and he drops the lighter, causing a fire that burns him to death.

Emma, now the only person still active in the call, fearfully turns her camera towards the door of her room after it opens. She throws a blanket, which drapes itself over an invisible human shape. She opens her window to escape, but trips and falls to her death. Jemma breaks into Haley's home and checks the Zoom call on Haley's laptop to see that Emma and Teddy are dead. The demon smashes a wine bottle over her head and starts to destroy the kitchen, but she recovers and finds Haley hiding under her desk, with the pair attempting to escape the house using the flash of Haley's instant camera to light the way. The demon appears in the final flash of light, taking the form of a mutilated human, and rushes at them as the Zoom call timer expires.


  • 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
  • James Swanton as the Spirit


The film traces back to a prank video created by Savage in early 2020, which featured him investigating strange sounds in his attic while on a group video chat with the subjects of the prank, some of whom would later star in Host. The participants of the call were unaware that the video was leading up to a jump scare of a zombie child, which Savage created by splicing a clip from the Spanish horror film Rec (2007) with footage of himself climbing up to the attic and subsequently falling down "dead" after the zombie attacks him. Savage placed the video online, where it went viral.[1][2] He found the format easy to watch and chose to apply it to a feature-length film. He has stated that the prank's success enabled him to create Host,[1] after producers contacted him about making a longer film upon seeing the viral video.[3]

Host was filmed while quarantine restrictions were in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic; Savage directed the actors remotely while they were in charge of their own cameras, lighting, sound, makeup, and stunts.[4] 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".[3] Practical effects were also handled by the actors and a virtual workshop was held on how to set up effects such as "moving doors [and] making things fly off shelves". Savage stated that the film took 12 weeks to complete, from the initial idea to its delivery to streaming platform Shudder.[5]

According to star Jemma Moore, the actors used a film treatment rather than a finished screenplay as the basis for their performances, as well as improvising and taking live feedback from Savage 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, the cast participated in a séance over Zoom prior to filming; the actors were also only given details of their own characters, with the fates of the 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, noting that Host contains references to a number of these.[3]


The film was released exclusively via the American streaming platform Shudder on 30 July 2020,[6] with a British release date of 4 December 2020 being arranged by Vertigo Releasing.[7]



On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 99% based on 98 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 seven critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[9]

Common praise for Host centered around its themes of social separation and social anxiety.[10][11] The New York Times and Rue Morgue made comparisons between the film and Unfriended (2014), a horror film that also featured supernatural activity occurring during a group video chat.[12][13] Time magazine named it one of the "17 Great Movies You May Have Missed This Summer" and stated that it 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] Referring to the film's novel portrayal of lockdown-induced paranoia, Elizabeth Horkley of The Atlantic called it "the first great entry in the new genre of 'quarantine horror'."[15]


The film was a commercial success, earning $443,807 against a budget of $100,000.[16]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Year Nominated Category Result Ref.
British Independent Film Awards 2021 Douglas Cox Breakthrough Producer Nominated [17]
Brenna Rangott Best Editing Nominated
Calum Sample Best Sound Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association 2021 Host Best Horror Film Nominated [18]
Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards 2020 Rob Savage Best Independent Film Nominated [19]


  1. ^ a b Munday, Rob (31 July 2020). "From Zoom prank to feature: The story of Rob Savage's 'Host'". Short of the Week. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  2. ^ "How new horror film 'Host' was made on Zoom in lockdown". Yahoo Movies UK. 31 July 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  3. ^ a b c Fordy, Tom (16 August 2020). "Zoom, the horror movie: how the Brits behind Host made a chilling lockdown masterpiece". Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  4. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (2020-07-07). "Shudder Invokes Quarantine Spirits With Remotely Filmed Horror Film 'Host'". Deadline. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  5. ^ Johnson, G. Allen. "Behind the scenes of 'Host,' a British horror film shot on Zoom". Datebook. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  6. ^ "First Trailer for Smash Hit Horror Film 'Host' Made Entirely on Zoom". 31 July 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  7. ^ "Host (2020)". BBFC. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  8. ^ "Host (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 2023-08-01.
  9. ^ "Host Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2023-08-01.
  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.
  12. ^ "Review: "Host" Is The Socially-Distanced Séance Of Your Nightmares". Rue Morgue. 31 July 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  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 (2 September 2020). "17 Great Movies You May Have Missed This Summer(2020)". Time. Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  15. ^ Horkley, Elizabeth (2020-08-19). "The Movie That Will Change How You Look at Zoom Meetings". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2022-08-29.
  16. ^ Alex Ritman (October 14, 2021). "From Prank Zoom Video to Blumhouse Deal: How 'Host' and 'Dashcam' Director Became a "Pandemic Profiteer"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 6, 2022. he was given a budget of around $100,000
  17. ^ "Winners and Nominations · BIFA · British Independent Film Awards". BIFA · British Independent Film Awards. 2020-12-04. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  18. ^ "The 2020 Hollywood Critics Association (HCA) Nominations". Next Best Picture. February 2021. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  19. ^ "The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards – Honoring the best in classic horror research, creativity and film preservation". Retrieved 2021-05-21.

External links[edit]