Shutter has been around the genre scene for quite some time. That said from a non-horror fans perspective the service looked like a depositary for random foreign horror movies that generally aren’t acclaimed enough to get a wide release but might appeal to the sort of genre fan that tries to see everything they can. Host looks like the first of their original offerings to have gained some traction within the film watching community. This is in large part thanks to the films central conceit. There have been films before this that entirely use modern technology to tell a complete story. This sub-genre started with the incredibly mediocre Unfrended and it’s even more boring sequel (just say “evil Minecraft!” to those that have been unfortunate enough to have sat through Dark Web and memories will come flooding back. The superb Searching will likely remain the high watermark for this specific style of presentation. This central idea is taken a step further with this film which went from conception to release over 12 weeks during Coronavirus lockdown and is was entirely presented as a Zoom meeting between six friends who over the course of an online seance discover that they have awakened a vengeful spirit.
The film may not hit the bar set by Searching but has a few immediate advantages over the Unfriended movies. For a relatively brisk 57-minute running time it quickly establishes the friendship between the central characters making them feel like genuine people as opposed to the characters in Unfrended being ripped directly from the teen horror playbook. For around 40 minutes the narrative is a quietly effective ghost story that’s nothing audiences won’t have seen before but is very impressive under the circumstances of the films production. The screenplay has characters directly reference the ongoing global pandemic which may date the film horrendously for future viewers but it is a nicely effective touch given the pandemic is still going on as of the writing of this review ( especially with the filmmaker’s not knowing if this would be the case by the time of release.) Unfortunately, the last 15 minutes default to generic jump scares and while there are some impressive special effects shots given the limitations the film makers were under the majority of the atmosphere built throughout the preceding runtime drains away. The result is a film that for what it is has turned out a very solid slice of supernatural horror. Nevertheless, there’s the sense that if the film had maintained its atmosphere as effectively as it could and elevated itself beyond solid
Host is surprisingly effective for long stretches given it could very easily be made exclusively to advertise the central selling point of the films production. That said the last 15 minutes really prevent it from elevating itself beyond an interesting if flawed curio. If viewers have any interest or are existing Shudder subscribers it’s definitely worth seeing but Searching It’s still the best film the subgenre has achieved as of this writing.