Does it really count as a feature length film if the movie is only 58 minutes long? I’m thinking more like a short film, right? But when looking it up (funny how I haven’t done that until now), HOST, a new 58 minute Shudder original movie, does in fact count as a “feature length film.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute, and the British Film Institute all define a feature as a film with a running time of 2,400 seconds (i.e. 40 minutes) or longer. Who’d have thunk that huh? With the movie having a surprising short as shit runtime, my review will probably also be short as shit, because if I talk about it a lot, I’ll end up ruining the scares and surprises. One surprise I can ruin, because it has nothing to do with the plot or twists, is that Host was actually just filmed a couple of months ago during the pandemic and lock down phase of it. Which was itself kind of cool that they were able to produce a half way decent film with all the limitations and time constraints. Per IMDB, it describes HOST as: “Six friends hire a medium to hold a séance via Zoom during lock down – but they get far more than they bargained for as things quickly go wrong. When an evil spirit starts invading their homes, they begin to realize they might not survive the night.” So essentially yes, it is another “desktop/laptop thriller” in the realm of other movies such as Unfriended, Unfriended: Dark Web, Searching, etc. Searching easily being the best of those. HOST ultimately works because of its very effective scares during the 2nd half hour of the film, although fans of this genre, like me, still kind of groan at the set up we have to endure before said scares.
This film isn’t written or directed by anyone you know, and it doesn’t star anyone you know. The acting though is very believable for its genre. The only thing that you’ll have to suspend your belief on is when the six friends either take their phone or laptop around their room and/or house when shit starts going down. Thankfully though, when they end up doing that, the scares are so damn effective that you completely forget about that little detail. The only real problem I had with the film is that none of these films, other than Searching, produce a great hook of a set up to get us engaged at the very beginning. It took be approximately about 15 – 20 minutes to me to get into these kinds of movies. Yeah, I understand that it is supposed to feel real, with these friends hooking up via Zoom one by one and spouting off stupid normal life shit that doesn’t really interest us, there’s just gotta be a more interesting way to do it. Other than that little nitpick, past the 15-20 minute mark, everything is smooth sailing. The scares that hit, they hit hard, and don’t ever let up, even when the end of the film has an actual fucking countdown to the end of the Zoom meeting (and you can easily guess what goes down when it hits :00, still made me jump though). To be honest, I maybe would’ve liked to see about 20-25 more minutes of added on effective scares like they had in the film, but then again, its runtime is about perfect, and adding anything else might have lessened the impact of the other frights. Considering I didn’t like Shudder’s other original film, The Beach House, and turned off Scare Package before that film’s half way mark, Host is the best thing Shudder has to offer right now. A decent one time watch. Still not enough to get me to pay past a free week trial though. Having to pay $5 a month for this service gives me the shivers in general.