Available on the streaming service Shudder, the horror film, directed remotely by Rob Savage and shot in actors’ homes, follows a group of friends who decide to hold a séance on Zoom during coronavirus lockdown and end up conjuring an evil spirit. “Host” currently boasts a perfect 100% freshness rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
But how scary can a film that takes place on Zoom actually be?
Though its premise may sound wacky, most critics agree: “Host” serves serious frights.
USA TODAY’s Brian Truitt praised the film for its innovative take on the found-footage format.
“Lean and mean at under an hour, the movie deftly tweaks the found-footage formula and nicely plays on our already frayed nerves,” he wrote.
According to the New York Times‘ Kyle Turner, the film’s premise about a demon unleashed via Zoom call “seems to speak to a collective id” and serves as “an analogy for mourning the recent past.”
“‘Host’ observes uncannily the supernatural, ephemeral, and material worlds colliding together, gesturing toward an uncertain future,” he wrote. “This concise, entertaining spin on the ghost story proposes that maybe the modern world is a haunted house now.”
Through the Trees‘ Katherine McLaughlin agreed that the film effectively plays on people’s pandemic anxieties.
” ‘Host’ captures the mood of lockdown and the present moment in time where everyone is trying to put on a brave face, but as things get increasingly worse it becomes difficult to hold it all together,” she wrote.
Though he called the film’s premise “absurd,” The Guardian‘s Benjamin Lee noted that the characters in “Host” react and behave in believable ways.
“In the world of the film, the virus does exist but, believably at this stage, it’s rarely commented on – a mask here, a joke about coughing there – and while there might be a few too many ‘lemme go investigate that noise’ moments, the interplay between the actors feels real, as if we were actually watching a group of friends facing supernatural dangers,” he wrote. “It’s this concerted effort to really sell what’s happening that allows us to forgive a few of the sillier moments.”
Substream Magazine‘s Murjani Rawls praised the movie’s ability to build tension, calling “Host” an “effective, tight, and spooky affair.”
“As with the pandemic, many of us may feel alone and melancholy,” he wrote. “The dark corner in the hallway is even more intensified because you’ve been by yourself for so long. This movie could have easily just focused on that aspect. Instead, it recognizes this and places that idea in the wheelhouse of horror. There’s something that you can’t explain attacking your friends and for the most part, you can’t get to them.”