HOST (2020), Shudder’s, as of this writing, brand new feature film, premiered on the streaming in late July 2020 to much acclaim.
Featuring relative unknowns in Haley Bishop (Deep State), Jemma Moore (DOOM: ANNIHILATION), Radina Drandova (Dawn of the Deaf), and Caroline Ward (Stalling It), HOST touches on our anxiety of quarantine and the invisible danger lurking beyond it in a neatly-paced virtual horror that takes place entirely through the video conferencing service we all have come to rely on this year, Zoom.
We are quickly introduced to our unknowingly ill-fated characters, and the scene is tersely set: They are to perform a seance at the request of the person to start the video call, Haley. We are shown that there’s something strange happening to her and from her admonishing of another character, Jemma, we learn this séance isn’t a joking matter.
Just as quickly, the rest of the characters are introduced, and we dive into the seance. With a lot of references to quarantine and staying safe, we learn this world is very much set in our own: it’s best to stay inside.
Yet staying inside is no safer, as we all know. The unknown lurks behind every corner, perhaps in a forgotten counter that needs to be wiped down after being touched, hands unwashed that trail across everyday objects…
Much like in our real world, we have our disbelievers of the invisible, namely in the aforementioned Jemma. She routinely makes a joke of the seance and dealing with the unknown, much to Hayley’s chagrin, and it is easy to wait for things to pick up for her to meet her demise.
Things pick up when Jemma jokingly creates a character, Jack, to ‘make something happen.’ She tells a tear-jerking story of a boy who hung himself, unknowingly, according to the medium invited to lead the call, inviting ‘any’ entity into their séance. Her joking nature quickly becomes serious as she realizes the severity of what she’s done with her friends being toyed with and killed off one by one.
It is interesting to note that when another friend Teddy, who originally joins the chat and gets disconnected before all of the terrible stuff happens is fine—until he logs back in. He and his girlfriend meet their end pretty quickly once he does so—which is our fate nowadays. A quick in-person meeting with friends can easily lead to an unsuspecting friend/family member falling ill or worse in our current climate.
It’s easy (perhaps too) to draw the parallels between those who don’t wear masks and adhere to the CDC’s suggestions in our waking life, and those who ignore or disobey the medium’s warnings in this movie, so I’ll leave it there.
With heart-pounding jump scares, and just-on-the-camera demon reveals before the characters meet their deaths, HOST is an excellent catharsis to deal with our new world. We’re locked inside (some of us), but we’re no safer from the threat outside our walls if we absentmindedly let it in.