Review: Shudder’s ‘HOST’ is the scariest film I’ve seen all year.

Six friends get together during lockdown for their weekly zoom call. It’s Haley’s turn to organise an activity and instead of a quiz, she’s arranged for a Medium to conduct a séance. Bored and feeling mischievous, Jemma decides to have some fun and invents a story about a boy in her school who hanged himself. However, her prank gives license for a demonic presence to cross over, taking on the guise of the boy in Jemma’s made-up story. The friends begin noticing strange occurrences in their homes as the evil presence begins to make itself known, and they soon realise that they might not survive the night. A SHUDDER ORIGINAL.

Cast: Haley Bishop, Radina Drandova, Jemma Moore, Caroline Ward, Emma Webb, Edward Linard

Playing out in real-time (56 minutes to be exact), 6 friends jump on a Zoom call after they hire a medium to entertain them. The visual set up is key. What appears to be totally casual laptop setups is actually compromised of very specific angles that will put any genre fan instantly on alert. A well placed open door in any frame is a constant cause for anxiety. Since we’ve all been doing these damn calls for months now, Host stylishly lulls you into a false sense of familiarity before pulling the rug out from underneath you. It’s quite genius in it’s simplicity.

25 minutes in and I was genuinely frightened. I’m talking chills, and jump scare, heart-pounding, all in. The cast is us, but we get to experience it through them. I’m not sure if I would even watch this on a big screen. I suggest you watch it on a laptop for the ultimate immersive experience. It’s as if you’re on the call but muted. What a fantastic set up for this moment in time. Remember that feeling when you first saw The Blair Witch Project? For those like myself who saw it opening night at a sold-out screening, before the internet ruined everything, we felt real terror. As soon as the screen went black, there was screaming and a stampede for the exit. This has that special kind of fear attached to it. HOST is found footage reinvigorated.

The acting from every single person is phenomenal. It makes me wonder how much of the script they had knowledge of because they are superb. Director Rob Savage never even entered the same room as his cast members, directing them through Zoom to maintain social distancing. This feat is impressive. Not only did they shoot the film themselves, but set lighting, and executed the practical fx. When you see the final product, wow. This may be the scariest film I’ve seen all year. I watch A LOT of horror and this film’s second half was almost all watched through my fingers. Bravo to everyone involved. I, for one, will not be sleeping tonight and what better a compliment for a horror film.

HOST is now available on SHUDDER

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.