HOST: things that go zoom in the night

Host is an effective ghost in the machine lockdown horror from British director Rob Savage, which has just received its global world premiere on Shudder.

He and his co-writers, Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd, have created the perfect Covid-19 chiller that we can watch in the comfort of our own homes, I say comfort but that dissipates as the 56 minute film unfolds with some bravo moments and scares that linger long after the film has finished.

Don’t let that running time put you off, it’s perfectly efficient and never outstay its welcome and just so happens to be just shorter than the length of a free Zoom group call.

A horror film conceived, written and shot during lockdown restrictions based in lockdown could have been just a clever idea, but it transcends that and we are left with an accomplished and clever little horror film. In fact it’s one of the best pieces of entertainment not to just come out of lockdown, but one of the best I’ve watched during. And like everyone else, that’s a lot of content.

Technically it is simple but brilliant as it was shot remotely with Savage giving instructions to the actors – using their real first names in the film – who also shot it on their own devices and had to do the practical effects themselves. All of which adds to the authenticity.

It does what horror does best and reflects the time it is created, perfectly tapping into our fears of the pandemic with an unseen enemy where no one is safe. Even in the apparent safety of our own homes, and just like with the unseen virus there are those that don’t take the rules of the Zoom seance quite as seriously as they should, with typical horror movie dire consequences.

Zoom meetings may have been daunting and uncomfortable before, but this makes them downright scary, taking horror staples like the seance, exploring the attic and malevolent entities and packages them up in a neat and effective bubble that is anything put protective.

It’s akin to Unfriended, another device based horror – that one around a Facebook style platform – but this is around a seance done through Zoom. Rather than just a neat gimmick it plays to the platforms strengths, which is as integral to the plot as any of the characters.

It was apt then that the evening before I’d watched Poltergeist, that classic Tobe Hooper/ Steven Spielberg horror with ghosts emerging from the TV. This brings that horror smack up to date, and does what horror does best, makes the normal and everyday unsettling.

And like all good horror it stays with you long after it’s final scene, and comes back to haunt you at 2am in the morning. If Contagion and Outbreak were the films that everyone was going to at the start of lockdown, this is the one that comes to define it best from it.

Perhaps its most frightening message is that it is no longer a single haunted house we need to fear, but a haunted world where there is no escape. And that will stay with you on long after your next Zoom call and accompany you on your next trip to the supermarket or to work.

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