Since the days of The Blair Witch Project, found footage has become the norm. New films with all kinds of angles pop up year-round, all trying to be that next thing that will take fans back to the glory days of Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity. These films have an even harder time of not only terrifying horror fans, but even being a blip on the map of horror. As one of thousands of desensitized horror junkies, it’s a challenge finding anything close to making me jump or cringe, and very rarely does it come from found-footage films.
Then, 2020 brought about a new kind of a horror, a real-life one we know as COVID. Big film productions shut down just as we did at home, and the task suddenly fell to indies to fill in the gaps where studies couldn’t. It became what I like to call “The Year of the Indie Filmmaker.” We got to see that indie, low-budget films could stand up to and even grossly overtake many studio movies, not just in terms of money but in scares.
One of these films melded our reality of quarantine with the horror genre so beautifully that it continues to terrify fans today. Host is the tale of a friends who stay in touch via Zoom calls, as many did during shutdowns, but on this particular call, a virtual séance goes wrong in all the right ways. And as soon as it starts to spiral into the depths of fear, it doesn’t let up. Clocking in at just 57 minutes, Host makes the most of every single second of screentime. Friends are forced to watch each other fall prey to something evil lurking in their call, connecting them all in ways they never wanted.
I had heard about this treat of a movie, and I took on the challenge to watch it. Never being one to shy away from horror, I flicked on my Roku at 4 a.m., flipped it over to Shudder, and began my own Zoom call with these friends. What started as a benign night with a medium joining them for an online séance quickly devolved, and little by little, terror grasped my nerves and yanked me down into despair. More than once, I covered my eyes with my fingers, peeking through while grimacing but not wanting to watch. I’d then rewind it a few seconds, feeling like I was safe having “heard” the scare, not realizing that it didn’t matter. My heart never quite slowed its beat, the cold shivers covering my body never stopped, and I loved every single moment of it. Fear had conquered me, and it came from a found footage film.
But don’t take my word for it. To this day, Host boasts a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score and droves of awards, including Fangoria’s coveted Chainsaw Award for Best Streaming Premiere Film. It even beat out Sinister’s previous record of being the scientifically scariest film ever based on audience heart rates. Not too shabby for some indie filmmakers and 57 minutes.
Host is streaming exclusively on Shudder.