Over the past couple of months I must have scrolled right past 50 different posts about the new Rob Savage film Host. In case you haven’t heard about it, the entire film was created during the 2020 quarantine. This left each actor entirely responsible for their own lighting, practical effects, make-up, and filming. I assumed this could have set the film up for failure, and it didn’t help that it looked like a rehash of 2014’s Unfriended for the newly Zoom-dependent public.
Host was initially released on 7/30 streaming exclusively on Shudder, and it immediately started making waves throughout the horror community. My Twitter feed was quickly filled with people commenting about being afraid to log onto Zoom for work that day or being nervous and looking at their webcams. For whatever reason, I still was not immediately enticed to check it out.
Yesterday, while avoiding one of my many obligations, I scrolled through Twitter and noticed a screenshot showing that Host currently sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. While reviews don’t typically mean much to me, especially reviews of horror films, I decided to do some digging. About .5 seconds into scrolling through the Wikipedia page for the film, I noticed that the runtime is an extremely brisk 56 minutes.
There has been a massive push for shorter-form content over the past few years. Netflix and other streaming platforms have normalized TV binge-watching, and shorter episodes and series are naturally attractive to today’s content consumers. Quibi arrived on the scene earlier this year, and I was afraid that would be the final nail in the coffin for standard length content. Thankfully, it seems like Quibi was just a billionaire’s wet dream-turned-nightmare. However, that doesn’t mean that people aren’t still looking for more bite-sized content. If anything, it’s just left consumers searching for the size they prefer to bite.
If you can truly develop feelings of horror and suspense in a shorter runtime, with little to no setup, that just means you must have an incredible concept. Short-form horror also has the potential to bring in new fans to the genre. I have friends that have never seen a horror movie in their entire lives because of how stressed they get while watching, and they can’t even fathom sitting and feeling that way for a couple of hours. However, promising to wrap everything up within one hour could attract new viewers, and could potentially change some film-going lives.
Host absolutely scratched my itch for short-form horror. It’s a fun and genuinely scary experience that takes place in the most relevant, relatable setting, which transports you right into the middle of the terror. There is nothing new or groundbreaking within the story, but there doesn’t need to be. Rob Savage isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel; he’s taking the wheel and shoving it right down viewers’ throats.
A group of friends, a seance, multiple skeptics, a creepy older lady to take them on the journey to the spirit world, and of course plenty of scares to keep you on the edge of your seat…It’s a winning combination, and it does not need to be re-examined when it works so effectively. The circumstances of production had no negative effects on the film’s quality. With each of the members of the production being stuck home alone, it was necessary to create scares using only what they had around them at the time. This creates direct connections to every viewer who is probably also sitting at home. I could go into specific moments that I enjoyed, but I don’t want to risk ruining any of the magic that comes with experiencing the unexpected. Just know that if you sit down to watch this film that you are also sitting down to rapidly look around your room to try to notice if anything is suddenly…slightly off…
I was skeptical about watching an entire film presented via Zoom screens. Unfriended was decent, but it also left me feeling bored after the first 45 minutes or so. Host shines because after about 10 minutes you feel like you are part of the call. Any illusion of separation is removed as you see the Zoom controls throughout every scene. I almost shook my mouse around to be sure that I was muted out of habit. The 56 minute runtime also guarantees that there is never a stale moment. My heart started racing within the first 10 minutes, and although I reminded myself that it was way too early for anything truly scary to happen, I soon realized I was in uncharted water and that the scares could begin at any time.
I don’t know if short-form horror is the future. I don’t know if any type of content that is created during quarantine will age well. I do know that I enjoyed every minute of Host. It was goofy, fun, literally as modern as possible, and it was scary.
Host is currently streaming on Shudder