Stuck in lockdown, a group of bored friends decide to conduct a seance over zoom. But as the spiritualist internet connection cuts out and the participants fail to take the process seriously, mysterious things start happening. The friends are being stalked by a malevolent being that’s the biggest threat to this conference call since dodgy broadband. The friends try to reconnect with the psychic and break the connection to the spirit world before each participant is muted for the last time.
Host is excellent at building tension. The unique opportunities afforded by the zoom platform are fully utilised as you find yourself scanning the six screens for frightening background details. There are also some fabulously designed scares, especially a very scary sequence involving a floating mask. However the film does rely a little too heavily on sudden loud noises in it’s third act. As the film becomes less subtle, it all suddenly feels very familiar, and the format starts to feel like a hindrance rather than an opportunity.
In terms of deeper meaning there is something to the exploration of communication and the impact that quarantine has had on the way we interact with each other. The failed séance is perhaps the ultimate bad connection, and the peril is greatly increased by our characters inability to interact with each other. However the virus is namedropped but never analogous with the horror of the ghosts. This year everyone has been afraid of implications of interacting with each other and of contracting a deadly virus from a mild slipup in the rigid hygiene regimes we’re all following now. Host could have played into these anxieties more, but the premise and themes feel tragically at odds with each other.
Host is an innovative horror film that is far more effective than it needed to be. Similar in concept to screen based thrillers Unfriended and Searching, Host explores new territory in the geography of horror. Yet there still feels like fertile ground for a film to capture the true horror of the first years of the 2020s.