It’s been a week and I’m still riding high off the meta-theatrical (meta-filmic?) thrill of watching a movie on Zoom that was filmed using Zoom. Honestly, it wouldn’t even matter if Rob Savage’s HOST (2020) was actually a good movie (although, it was). When the movie started with a Zoom login I thought my friend who was hosting the screen-share was doing something in real Zoom and it took me a good minute to realize: no. This is the movie!
I’m a sucker for a new experience, so that’s all it took. I was all-in.
HOST is a decent movie. Like truly, it may only be OK. The premise is straightforward: a group of friends gather on Zoom for a socially-distanced séance. Two of the friends don’t believe in ghosts and mock them, which makes the ghosts mad. All hell breaks loose as each of them is terrorized in their separate homes. The movie is only 60-minutes (the length of a free zoom call, supposedly) and the narrative is simplistic. We get just enough dialogue to get a vague sense of what role each character is going to fill, and then the havoc begins. There are a couple of pretty creepy scares toward the end, but overall if it were not a zoom movie I probably wouldn’t be impressed. But it is a Zoom movie, and I am.
I recently watched two other meta-spooky cyber scares in the same format with the same friends: RATTER (2015) and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007). HOST was by far the scariest of the three because 1) it made clever use of the Zoom format and 2) the scary effects at the end were extra-scary because I assumed they had no money for effects. (I guess that’s where…all…the money went?) My point is, what made HOST good is that the format allowed me to buy in to the idea that the zoom call was real, and my friends and I were inside it.
Maybe some context would be helpful here: I’m a theater person and I really miss theater. Any and all theater, but especially the kind where I feel immersed. And watching this movie on zoom felt like an immersive theatrical experience. Especially because I chose to participate a little bit. I recommend you do, too! Here are the super simple things I did to get the most out of my pseudo-theatrical HOST experience:
First of all: leave your friends’ cameras on! That way, when all the pretty actors’ faces are getting scared onscreen, your friends’ faces will be scared right next to them. It’s like you’re in the Zoom, too! Simple, but effective. Like puppets for the internet age.
Second: drink when they drink! At the beginning of the film there is a small drinking game. You know how much I love those. They only drink a few times, so I promise you won’t get wasted. But it will feel like you’re part of things! And who among us isn’t lonely enough to wish for even a fake version of that right now?
Third: light a candle when they do.
Candles are always a vibe and in the film the candle is basically how they make a big magic circle inviting the ghosts to do murder. Don’t you want to invite the ghosts in to your house, too?
Does it pass?
- The Bechdel-Wallace Test: Yes! There are 6 ladies in this movie and only 1 dude.
- The Sexy Lamp Test: Yes.
- The Willis Test: Yes.
- The Ko Test: Yes. Jemma (Jemma Moore) is British-Chinese. Although, gotta say, it feels a little weird that everyone else is white.
- The Roxane Gay Test: In general the Gay test is looking for movies to go a little deeper than this one ever does. Also far more than half the characters are white. I say no.
Have you watched any creepy Zoom movies this pandemic? Tell me about them! Or share your experience getting immersed in HOST. Did the ghosties get you??