Nominations: Best Movie, Best Low Budget Movie, Best Supporting Actress, Most Unexpected Success
Cast: Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, Caroline Ward, James Swanton, Seylan Baxter
Writer: Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd, Gemma Hurley
Director: Rob Savage
Production Companies: Douglas Cox, Emily Gotto, Craig Engler, Samuel Zimmerman
HOST (2020) definitely hit the nail-on-the-head for horror fans desperate to find something great to watch during the COVID crisis. It’s a low-budget gem that relies heavily on its tone, pace and the fear exhibited by the characters. Thankfully, the cast is stellar and delivers on all fronts. It is no wonder that the flick garnered such praise and earned itself four BTS Horror Award Nominations.
The formula is similar to UNFRIENDED (2014) or SEARCHING (2018) where the entire film takes place over the computer. Here it’s a zoom call where six friends get together to stay in touch during COVID lockdown. Haley (Haley Bishop) decides to make things interesting and hires a medium Seylan (Seylan Baxter) to contact spirits and make for a spooky night.
Along with Haley is Jemma (Jemma Moore), Radina (Radina Drandova), Caroline (Caroline Ward), Emma (Emma Louise Webb) and Teddy (Edward Linard). Teddy is a chump. His girl Jinny (Jinny Lofthouse) apparently can’t handle that he’s buds with a bunch of hot fems and he bails before the fun even starts. I know peeps like Jinny. I hate them all. Let your man have a little goddamn fun! He’s not going to fuck them over a zoom call. Someone has to get real with that chick and tell her, “lighten your purse load and give him his balls back.”
Other than Jinny, Jemma is the most annoying bitch out of the group. Despite, Haley asking for everyone to take shit serious, Jemma pretends to get in contact with a boy named Jack who committed suicide in her school. The whole story is a crock, but the disrespectful act summons something dark.
Books fall at Seylan’s place and she unwillingly exits the zoom call. Haley calls and confesses that Jemma was being a lying twat. The call ends abruptly, but not before Seylan warns them that Jemma’s antics could have summoned something demonic.
I would have loved to see the ‘Jack’ aspect of the storyline developed more and evolve into something akin to the Philip Experiment where manifestations of the mind and fictitious accounts of paranormal activity led to actual paranormal events. It’s the same study THE QUIET ONES (2014) was based on, but sadly that movie sucked. If allotted more time and a higher budget, I think HOST could have done the concept and phenomena justice.
Anyways, the gang try to apologize to whatever force is messing with them, but the spirit is in no mood for apologies. One by one, the gals are tormented and murdered. Teddy returns but isn’t immune to the entity’s powers, either. At least, Jinny won’t be hassling him anymore, unless they’re stuck with each other in the afterlife. She’ll probably forbid him from going to any of the sexy angel strip clubs in heaven, too. She’s such a buzzkill.
HOST is just under an hour long, but does amazing with the little time it has. It establishes a strong and fully developed, albeit simple story. Here, simple is good. The viewers are brought into the tale immediately, introduced to its most important players and taken on the frightening ride with the characters.
I also want to point out that HOST had a predominantly female cast, but received none of the flack that BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019) did. There’s a reason for that. Unlike BLACK CHRISTMAS, the characters weren’t used as mere vagina tokens and caricatures of man-haters on a mission to rid the world of anything remotely masculine or phallic. In HOST, they just were women who got together because they were friends and enjoyed each other’s company. It felt like genuine conversations and was treated in a realistic manner void of agenda or grandstanding.
HOST proves that when a film is done well and with talented actors, it doesn’t matter if women or men are in the starring roles. All a movie really must accomplish to be treated fairly by the horror community is to be decent at storytelling, deliver a quality product and to treat the audience like adults.
It’s easy to see why Emma Louise Webb received a nod for Best Supporting Actress. She is involved in the most terrifying scene and the emotions she expresses evokes the necessary fear that paves the way for the tension of the conclusion.
Emma Louise Webb (above) has been nominated for the Behind The Screams Best Supporting Actress Horror Award
If you haven’t checked this baby out yet, definitely do. It is a fabulous ride and certainly worthy of its praise.