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Host (2020 film) Review

I've been reading comics and watching cartoons for as long as I can remember. So yeah, I know a thing or two or three.


The Premise


One of the best things that a film can do is to make the story feel realistic. This film starts off with a group of six friends (Haley, Jemma, Emma, Radina, Caroline and Teddy) getting on a Zoom call. It's hinted that a couple of the friends are a bit nervous about the evening's events, since the group will be performing a séance...for some reason. The group is joined by a medium, Seylan, who warns that during the séance not to disrespect the spirits.

Amazingly, that doesn't seem to be the way that the night plays out. Before they begin, Teddy's girlfriend pulls him away, leaving the five women with Seylan, who walks them through the process communicating with the spirit world. As Seylan begins describing the various ways to feel connection with the spirit world, Jemma feels a connection. She describes a young man she knew from school, Jack, that had hung himself in the past, and pressure she felt on the back of her neck.

Things begin to take a turn for the worse when Seylan leaves to get a food delivery (y'know, cuz COVID). As Seylan's wifi cuts out, and drops her from the call, Jemma laughingly reveals that she had made Jack up. As Haley tries to get Seylan on the phone, things get a bit weird for our girls; Haley feels a presence in her home, Caroline hears sounds in her attic, the wine glass on Emma's desk shatters and Radina realizes her boyfriend is gone. Haley finally gets Seylan on the phone and explains that Gemma had lied, which causes Seylan to panic. By creating a fake person, Gemma had given malicious spirits a way into each of their homes.

Things quickly go from worse to hellish. Seylan is cut off from the others, and the spirits begin picking the girls off one-by-one. The first confirmed to go is Radina, after seeing her boyfriend fall from the ceiling, assumingly dead, she tries to run from her home, only to be dragged back into the house, leaving a drop of blood on her camera. Haley is dragged by the legs further into her house, closed off from the others. Caroline is missing, replaced by a background video of herself in her room, until her screen glitches, revealing her bloody face being slammed into her desk repeatedly by some unseen force. Out of the blue, Teddy jumps back into the chat, unknowing of the horrors that had come in the night.

As Emma tries to warn him to get out, Teddy comes face to face with one of the horrific spirits, watches his girlfriend be hanged in air and killed, and is burned alive. Completely alone at this point, Emma is chased from room to room and lifted by a spirit, before she tries to escape through her window, only to smash into a picnic table, lifeless. Gemma, meanwhile has gone rogue, running from her home to Haley's to try and find her friend.

As the film ends, Haley and Gemma are trying to leave Haley's obviously haunted home, using a polaroid camera to light their way, only to be attacked by one of the spirits, leaving us with a very unclear final fate of Gemma and Haley.


The Roster

Haley is the primary instigator on everything that happens during this film. It seems like Haley has had haunting in her home long before the film started. She spends the first act of the film trying to keep her friends in line, but does not succeed. She spends most of her remaining time just trying to survive.

Jemma could be considered a secondary antagonist in this film, as it can be argued that without her story, there wouldn't have been any deaths. She appears a bit braver than her friends, as she tries to rescue Haley after things take a turn. While she did make a mistake, it is clear that she cares about her friends and may have remorse for her actions.

Radina is introduced in an argument with her boyfriend. They had apparently moved in together either shortly before, or because of, the COVID lockdown. It is clear that tensions are high in the household, but she does not let that bring her spirits down during the call. She takes a bit of a backseat in the film, and ends up just another victim of the circumstances.

Emma appears to be the bubbly personality of the group, spending much of the call messing around with various filters and taking shots every time Seylan said "astral plane". While she had very little role in the summoning of the spirits, she spends a longer time being tortured on screen than most of her friends, being chased through her house, picked up by a spirit, and tries to escape.

Caroline is a sad victim that was brought into this mess by her friends. She is first of the girls, aside from Haley, to have any sort of presence. She appears to be characterized as very quiet and shy, so the HUGE shock of seeing her randomly glitch on screen having her face smashed into her desk was a terrible thing to watch.

Teddy had literally no idea what was going on. He left the call before anything happened, and came back to find only Emma, crying while trying to hide. He assumed this was some sort of prank until the power goes out in the house. He was an upbeat character throughout his appearance, and his death can really only be justified by his connection to the others.

Seylan was more of a mysterious presence than the others, only appearing for about 5-10 minutes of the film. It can be assumed that she was killed in her home, as the last time we see her, there is another presence on the screen just before it cuts off.


What's There to Love?

This film felt very indicative of the times. The seven people involved are isolated, stuck in their own homes, with no means of escape, really added to the feeling of helplessness. The undeserved deaths of most of the characters really drives home the idea that nobody is safe.

I am not typically a fan of "found footage" films, but it worked for this movie. We felt the sheer terror of six different people trying to survive. The story moved at the right pace to keep you on your toes.


What Could Have Been Better?

While the pacing was really well done overall, I do wish that the film was a bit longer. The 57 minute playtime does leave something to be desired. The deaths of Teddy and Caroline felt a bit rushed, and I wish that we would have been given a bit more time with each.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, went into this film expecting The Host by Bong Joon-ho, so you can imagine my surprise. Honestly, a highly enjoyable film that did manage to avoid jump-scares for the most part. There are a handful, but for the most part, the film uses audio and psychological horror to build suspense before brutally slaughtering everyone. This film is not kind to the characters, and honestly, it left me with a sickeningly satisfied taste in my mouth.

All things considered, Host pulls in a solid 8.5/10.

Thanks for reading! If you think there's anything I should review next, leave a comment below! Until next time, stay frosty!

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