Movie Review: Host

Just as “googling” has become synonymous Internet searching, “zooming” has become synonymous with video conferencing, and we can thank the covid pandemic for the latter. Everyone uses Zoom these days, whether you’re a grandparent in suburban Manchester connecting with your family around the world and across town, or a bunch of hapless school board officials in California who still haven’t learned how to mute their bitch session from the general public. It’s not surprising, then, that someone should come up with the idea to host a Zoom séance. I don’t know if such things really do exist in real life but, if they didn’t before, they will now thanks to the film, HOST.

In the film, Haley (Haley Bishop) decides to host a Zoom séance for five of her besties, who are all stuck at home going stir-crazy thanks to the UK lockdown. While she’d prefer that her friends take the activity seriously, they don’t, of course, and a few of them decide to turn it into a drinking game where they take a swig of whatever alcoholic beverage they’ve got in front of them every time their hired medium, Seylan (Seylan Baxter), – do you see a pattern here with the character names? – says “astral plane”. Their levity causes a malevolent spirit to appear, and the friends (and the audience) are forced to watch mysterious events unfold online, helpless to intervene.

The best thing about HOST is that it’s only 56 minutes long so it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Director Rob Savage, who also wrote the screenplay along with Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd, does a decent job updating the “found footage” genre to the covid age, taking his time setting up the premise and delivering some good jump scares once the fun gets going. Being a horror-mystery-thriller, there will be a few times when you’ll be yelling at the screen, “Turn the bloody lights on!” and “Why on Earth would you go up to your attic now?”, but dumb character motivations seem to be a staple of this genre. Just go with the flow. Like in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, the actors are all young and with limited, if any, professional film experience. HOST is not going to make household names out of any of them but their performances here are all credible enough given the incredible premise of the story.

Surprisingly, our cinemas here are charging full price for a ticket to see this film. That’s rather chutzpadik, to say the least. They should at least pair the film with a 30-minute thriller short. Instead, I fully expect them to subject their audiences to thirty minutes of trailers and adverts.

HOST is opening in our cinemas in Hong Kong on Thursday. It’s also available worldwide on the horror film streaming platform Shudder. If you’ve got an hour to kill (pun intended) and you like this genre, give it a go. It does what it says on the tin.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, February 26th, 8:30 am HK time!

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