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Host (2020) #MovieReview

Six friends accidentally invite the attention of a demonic presence during an online seance.

Release Date: 07-30-2020 | MPAA Rating: Unrated | Runtime: 57 mins | Directed by: Rob Savage | Starring: Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb

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Alright, let’s get into some lockdown cinema. Host is a found footage horror movie that takes place on Zoom during the 2020 quarantine. By most film standards this movie is low budget, and as far as I can tell is essentially indie given that its production company, Shadowhouse, was more or less created to produce Host. This movie was interesting, and I have a soft spot for found footage horror, but this movie is not one of my favorites.

Story

The story is one of the things that has me most disappointed in this film. The premise is fun, but it’s not new. It’s the same general idea as Unfriended but with the flavor of Ouija or any seance/”attacked by demons” movie added on.

I liked the implementation of Zoom’s features to create spooky moments, but I don’t think that was enough to carry the whole movie. I’ve seen disrespectful white people get torn apart by an angry spirit plenty of times. Without any unique angle or interesting backstory or lore to latch onto, the movie just feels like a vehicle for the gimmick of “Zoom seance,” which isn’t unique enough to be a good gimmick.

Not all of these kinds of movies absolutely need an amazing story, but the other aspects of the movie really need to be decent to make up the slack, and I don’t think that really happens here.

The other big problem was the way the characters kept going forward and poking the bear when they had every reason and excuse not to. They were told how to safely get out of it and they waited until they started seeing demons in their house before they tried to do it, and acted like they couldn’t do it without the medium’s help. There’s literally a moment where one of them goes into the dark attic to investigate a noise. It’s fun if you like tropey horror but I like more realism in found footage.

Acting

The performances aren’t bad at all. I was invested in pretty much everything the characters were doing. I wanted to complain about certain things, but I realized those were poor writing decisions, not the fault of any actor. The only negative thing I can say is that the guy playing Teddy kind of makes him come across as an exaggerated dick, but maybe he was written that way. Overall I think these actors did a good job with what they were given.

Production

I do have complaints for this category though, which is sad because I try to give found footage movies some slack because they are usually lower budget and sometimes you have to cheat a little to make everything work. But in this case I feel like they cheated a little more than I could forgive.

The main thing that took me out of the experience was the characters so frequently switching to their front facing cameras while moving through their homes. Who does that? A good point that all found footage horror should focus on is the question “Why is the person filming this?” Is it realistic for a normal person who is not trying to capture something on film to go through the trouble to point a camera at this?

Nobody gets spooked and takes the time to turn on their camera, aim it, and start filming what spooked them, so you need to write the spooky stuff happening when the camera is already on. Specifically in the case of this movie, I can say with solid confidence that nobody has ever turned on their front facing camera in Zoom during quarantine and walked around their house like that. Nobody is that confident in the cleanliness of their home. I could maybe buy it when they were in the middle of the seance and they were trying to show everyone what’s happening, but it’s still weird that they took the time to do it.

The other issue I had was with the “demon” itself, which only shows up maybe twice, only does so in jumpscares, and looks pretty much like a monster in an early 2000s shock video on YouTube. It’s some dirty dude with dark skin skulking and jumping out from behind corners, and it felt cheap. I also can’t stand lazy jumpscares in general, so that didn’t help its case. I don’t know what a good choice for the look of the demon would’ve been, but I’m confident this was a bad choice, especially with the lack of backstory I mentioned above.

That said, the effects and camerawork themselves are solid. I may not like the logic behind some of the choices, but the actual work as it appears on screen is strong. Credit where credit is due.

Conclusion

Host isn’t all bad. If you like tropey, popcorny horror this is a perfectly fine watch, and the 57-minute runtime means you won’t waste your whole evening if you don’t like it. I do think it fails after billing itself as innovative and unique because of the quarantine and Zoom angles, but it’s not awful, just kind of samey compared to other found footage and demon movies. It doesn’t get a high ranking from me but if it sounds fun to you then go for it.

Published inMovie ReviewsUnstarred Reviews

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