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Host (15)

Cast: Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Radina Drandova, Caroline Ward, Emma Louise Webb
Genre: Thriller
Author(s): Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd, Gemma Hurley
Director: Rob Savage
Release Date: 04/12/2020 (selected cinemas)
Running Time: 57mins
Country: UK
Year: 2020

Haley organises a Zoom video call with five friends: Caroline, Emma, Jemma, Radina and Teddy. The first five minutes are filled with light-hearted banter and pleasantries. Then Haley invites her pal Seylan into the chat room to conduct an online seance. Caroline is nervous - "Can't we just do a board game?"- but Seylan attempts to allay the group's fears even though, in her own words, they will be "slightly less protected" by summoning spirits remotely rather than standing together in a circle.


 

LondonNet Film Review
Host (15)

During the Covid pandemic, video conferencing has brought together friends, family and work colleagues in isolation, providing a digital gateway to meetings, birthday parties, engagements, baby showers, quiz nights and cook-alongs. Arts organisations, theatre-makers and musicians have boldly and imaginatively reconfigured their work as intimate, online experiences, transforming homes into virtual concert halls, arts centres and conference rooms. The ties which bind have increasingly become stable broadband and cameras mounted to laptops and mobile devices. Written by director Rob Savage, Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd, Host mines this overnight digital evolution for spine-tingling chills and plentiful shrieks from a cast, who retain their real Christian names to create the illusion of verite terror…

In 2014, low budget horror Unfriended used a video call between pals to take the philosophical concept of a ‘ghost in the machine’ to the outlandish next level. Savage’s film attempts the same trick albeit with some artistic licence – a free 40-minute Zoom call during one balmy evening in July is stretched to 54 minutes of screen time – and obvious nods to The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity with some jump-out-of-seat scares. For the most part, the nimble dramatic conceit works well although the extended use of the flash of a Polaroid camera to illuminate darkened rooms feels increasingly contrived.

In the midst of the first national lockdown, Haley (Haley Bishop) organises a Zoom video call with five friends: Caroline (Caroline Ward), Emma (Emma Louise Webb), Jemma (Jemma Moore), Radina (Radina Drandova) and Teddy (Edward Linard). The first five minutes are filled with light-hearted banter and pleasantries. Caroline playfully scolds her father (Patrick Ward) for venturing outside for groceries when he could shop safely online, Radina rolls her eyes when she momentarily exhibits a symptom of Covid (“People are not allowed to cough any more. It’s ridiculous!”) and Teddy complains about having to curb his boisterous tendencies while he bubbles with girlfriend Jinny (Jinny Lofthouse).

Haley invites her pal Seylan (Seylan Baxter) into the chat room to conduct an online seance. Caroline is nervous – “Can’t we just do a board game?”- but Seylan attempts to allay the group’s fears even though, in her own words, they will be “slightly less protected” by summoning spirits remotely rather than standing together in a circle with hands linked.

Host is an unsettling exercise in sustained tension that makes the most of the physical restrictions of filmmaking during an outbreak. The cast operate their own cameras and a frenetic finale engineers a couple of truly gob-smacking moments that scratch our nerves and mercilessly exploit universal fears of things that go bump in the night.

– Sarah Lee


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