mon 25/01/2021

Host review - Zoom seance triggers unspeakable consequences | reviews, news & interviews

Host review - Zoom seance triggers unspeakable consequences

Host review - Zoom seance triggers unspeakable consequences

Director Rob Savage's fiendishly cunning lockdown horror movie

Spooked: Caroline Ward in 'Host'

Lockdowns must be good for something, right?

Lockdowns must be good for something, right? British writer-director Rob Savage (a 2013 Screen International Star of Tomorrow, factoid fans) has made the most of the unwelcome imposition of our first national incarceration by creating a Zoom-powered horror movie, in which a group of six friends gather around their phones and laptops to stage an internet-powered seance.

Previous films such as Unfriended and Searching have deployed computer screens to tell their story, but the idea of using Zoom adds a different dimension, and Savage has cannily exploited the parameters of the setup. The various bits of fiddling about and dodgy connections will be familiar to anyone who has found Zoom an only partially acceptable substitute for three-dimensional human interaction, while having the action partitioned off into discrete boxes with a limited field of view means that very small effects – bumps, thumps, flickering lights, a sound of heavy breathing – can evoke mounting terror out of all proportion to their size.

The story begins with Haley (Haley Bishop), who’s hosting the event, welcoming her buddies to the online meeting. Haley’s done this before and is quite confident about it, while Emma and Caroline are nervous, Radina needs a break from her controlling boyfriend, and Jemma (Jemma Moore, pictured below) is jokily sceptical. The only male involved is Teddy, who’s having trouble concentrating because he’s staying at the luxury country home belonging to the parents of his girlfriend, Ginny. He’s barely managed to tear himself away from the outdoor swimming pool to his computer screen when he’s hauled off again by Ginny, who obviously has no idea that she may be triggering bad vibes on the astral plane.

HostHost’s running time is a sparse but shrewd 56 minutes, giving Savage room to introduce his characters and crank up the spook-ometer without labouring to stretch his material further than it can bear. There’s time for the friends to banter and gossip among themselves when one or another of them leaves the meeting temporarily, and even when they’re joined by a medium, Seylan, to bring some gravitas to the proceedings, they still find it hard to take it seriously. It’s only after Jemma pretends to have experienced a manifestation from the spirit world that the dark stuff really kicks off.

Savage pumps up the terror using the most minimal of means – footsteps appearing in flour scattered on the floor, a fleeting glimpse of something horrific caught in a camera flash, a near-subliminal appearance of a pair of female legs in a dark attic. But the tempo rises inexorably to a hysterical climax, with the film drolly ending just as the Zoom meeting reaches its mandatory time-limit. If Rob Savage can get his hands on a sizeable budget, who knows where it might end?

Director Rob Savage pumps up the terror using the most minimal of means

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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