Host (2020)

Wanting to do something other than board game zoom gatherings, Haley invites some friends to join her for a virtual seance.

I’m not sure if this is actually the scariest movie of all time, but it is certainly the most 2020 movie so far. From the zoom meeting format and to the elbow bump greeting, Host gives a nod to all the hits from the last two years: joking about how coughing to cover up a fart is now the other way around, talking about parents who refuse to stay indoors and follow safety guidances, commenting on the unfortunate timing of new couples moving in together right before having to quarantine, even going so long without seeing friends that they look different now.

It’s the perfect setup and concept for jump scare after jump scare. The way zoom works makes this type of scare even more effective. Not only does the noise of the scare occur, but the video changes abruptly whenever someone’s mic is the predominant sound in the meeting, for example, when Caroline’s face is repeatedly smashed on the keyboard of her computer.

As my partner put it, it’s a movie version of the classic screen prank.

But I don’t want to come off as overly critical, since the movie definitely isn’t only about the jump scares. There’s a moment during the phone call with Seylan and Jemma admits that “Jack’s not real” when the gravity of the situation really sinks in. This is the moment that everyone involved recognizes that this is real. 

That is, until Teddy turns back up—funnily enough represented as a clown. I’ll admit that for a brief moment during my first watch that I thought ooh maybe this clown is going to communicate with them! But that obviously would’ve taken so much away from the horror of the film.

Emma seeing Teddy rejoin the meeting

There is so much foreshadowing, setup and payoff. Some of these are genuinely scary occurrences that set up much bigger scares later in the movie. All the creepy stuff that occurs in Haley’s hallway prior to the seance, for example, prepares us for her walk down the hall, the photo she takes and then ultimately seeing her get pulled in.

When Radina is walking around looking for her boyfriend and in the background we see his feet dangling from the ceiling behind her, and then later we see him fall. 

The mask filter in Emma’s living room is an unnerving sort of precursor to the blanket she throws over it.

And the ticker for when the meeting will end playing out over a fun repackaging of the scene in Adam’s apartment in the original Saw. Acting as a countdown to the final jump is just great, plus given the source material we all know what to expect, but it will still get you.

It’s definitely a movie to watch on a laptop, alone, in the dark—it’ll make you jump and give you the creeps, as well as a laugh or two. Definitely one of the better “screenlife” horror films. 

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