Lisa’s Week In Review: 9/28/20 — 10/4/20


The first four days of our annual Horrorthon are in the book and wow, am I exhausted!

October is my favorite month of the year, specifically because this is the month when I really, really push myself to the point of blissful exhaustion.  You know that feeling when you feel like you’re about to collapse and then suddenly, you get a new bust of energy?  Those are the moments that I live for.  By the way, did I mention that I’m too mentally exhausted to make any sense tonight?  Just something to keep in mind….

Here’s what I watched, read, listened to, and wrote about this week:

 

Films I Watched:

  1. Alive (2020)
  2. Are These Our Children? (1931)
  3. Blood Rage (1987)
  4. Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island (2020)
  5. Dead of Night (1977)
  6. Dying to be a Cheerleader (2020)
  7. Everfall (2018)
  8. The Giant Spider Invasion (1975)
  9. Host (2020)
  10. Inner Demon (2020)
  11. It Takes All Kinds (1950)
  12. Jealousy (1950)
  13. Kidnapped by a Classmate (2020)
  14. Killer in the Guest House (2020)
  15. Marriage is a Partnership (1951)
  16. Marriage Today (1950)
  17. Mister 880 (2020)
  18. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
  19. Psycho Sister-In-Law (2020)
  20. Tales From Parts Unknown (2020)
  21. This Charming Couple (1950)
  22. Twisted Twin (2020)
  23. Who’s Boss? (1950)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. 2020 Presidential Debate
  2. Bar Rescue
  3. Barnaby Jones
  4. Big Brother 22
  5. Cannon
  6. Dancing With The Stars
  7. Doctor Phil
  8. Dracula
  9. Dragnet
  10. Friends
  11. Ghost Whsiperer
  12. Love Island
  13. Mannix
  14. Ratched
  15. Seinfeld
  16. South Park
  17. The Vow

Books I Read:

  1. By Reason of Insanity (1979) by Shane Stevens
  2. The Exorcist (1971) by William Peter Blatty

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Arcade Fire
  2. Big Data
  3. Billie Eilish
  4. The Chemical Brothers
  5. Deradoorian
  6. Dua Lipa
  7. Georgia Twinn
  8. Ghosted
  9. Gin Wigmore
  10. Goblin
  11. John Carpenter
  12. Kevin Bias
  13. Muse
  14. The Naked and Famous
  15. Pentatonix
  16. Phantogram
  17. Purity Ring
  18. Saint Motel
  19. Wendy Carlos

Links From The Site:

  1. I shared music videos from Georgia Twinn, Deradoorian, The Naked and Famous, Pentatonix, Kevin Bias, Ghosted, and Billie Eilish.
  2. I paid tribute to Mario Bava, Jack Arnold, Steve Miner, and Ken Russell!
  3. I shared scenes that I love from The Shining, Halloween, Burnt Offerings, and Night of the Living Dead!
  4. I shared my Oscar predictions for September!
  5. I reviewed a lot of things.  Deep breath: Bloodshot, Bad Boys For Life, I Still Believe, Coda, John Henry, Dangerous Lies, Murder To Mercy, Twin Murders, Rising High, Dragonheart: Vengeance, Sleeping With Danger, Her Deadly Sugar Daddy, Twisted Twin, The Killer in the Guest House, Psycho Sister-In-Law, Kidnapped By A Classmate, Are These Our Children, Go For It!, Coma, Mister 880, Fantasy Island, Kung Fu Zombie, William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, Blood Rage, Everfall, From The Dark, Curtis Richards’s Halloween, Girl on the Third Floor, Tales From Parts Unknown, Burnt Offerings, Die Cheerleader Die, Host, Alive, By Reason of Insanity, and The Giant Spider Invasion!
  6. Case reviewed The Car: Road to Revenge, Errementari, and The Watcher in the Woods!
  7. Erin welcomed you to October and she shared the Evil Schemes of Dr. Death!  She also shared: Narcotics Agent, Agent of the Unknown, Double Feature, Wilderness, Night Walker, Night of the Black Horror, and Ghost Stories!
  8. Jeff reviewed Valdez is Coming, Fist Fighter, A Time To Die, Spring 2020, Anguish, Bogeyman, Fever Lake, The Sock Puppet Killer, Spider-Man, Ghosts are Good Hosts, and The Incredible Hulk Returns!
  9. Ryan reviewed On Transit and Dog Book!

Horror On The Lens:

  1. Satan’s Triangle
  2. An Evening With Edgar Allen Poe
  3. Where Have All The People Gone
  4. Bloodlust!

Episodes of Horror on TV:

  1. Baywatch Nights 2.1
  2. Baywatch Nights 2.2.
  3. Baywatch Nights 2.3
  4. Baywatch Nights 2.4

More From Us:

  1. At Days Without Incident, Leonard wrote about Halcyon and On and On (by Orbital)!
  2. Ryan has a patreon and you should consider subscribing!
  3. I wrote about Big Brother for the Big Brother Blog!
  4. At SyFy Designs, I shared: Happy October!
  5. At my Dream Journal, I shared: Last Night’s Home Burglary Dream!
  6. For Horror Critic, I reviewed The Inner Demon, The Amazing Colossal Man, and War of the Colossal Beast!
  7. On my music site, I shared songs from Phantogram, Arcade Fire, Kedr Livanskiy, Gin Wigmore, The Chemical Brothers, Purity Ring, and Dua Lipa!
  8. At her photography site, Erin shared: Landing Pad, Welcome Home, Bank Building, October, Under The Trees, October Cabin, and Stepping Out!

Want to see what happened last week?  Click here!

Horror on TV: Baywatch Nights 2.4 “The Strike” (dir by David W. Hagar)


In tonight’s episode of Baywatch Nights, Lifeguard Mitch (David Hasselhoff) is struck by lightning while saving the life of an awkward and really pale first time surfer.  It’s then up the Paranormal Investigator Mitch to discover all of the surfer’s secrets.  Not surprisingly, it all goes back to aliens.

At the risk of starting the obvious, the second season of Baywatch Nights is probably a show that would have never existed without the success of The X-Files.  The first season of Baywatch Nights was a straight detective show.  Because no one watched the first season, the 2nd season found Hasselhoff investigating a different paranormal event every week.  What I find interesting is that, after battling sea serpents and all the rest, Mitch could apparently easily go back to his day job as a lifeguard.  Seriously, I would be so paranoid after meeting just one monster, I can’t imagine how I would react after meeting three of them.  I definitely wouldn’t be smiling while watching people go into the water.  I would be demanding that the beaches close.

Anyway, this episode makes Baywatch Nights‘s debt to The X-Files pretty clear.  Personally, I just like the super cheap lightning effect.

This episode originally aired on October 20th, 1996.

Enjoy!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Giant Spider Invasion (dir by Bill Rebane)


Welcome to rural Wisconsin, where everyone’s running around in their underwear and getting attacked by giant spiders!

That’s not meant to be a dig at the 1975 film, The Giant Spider Invasion, either.  I mean, let’s be honest.  If you’re going to be running around the trailer park in your underwear, the last thing that you want to do is walk straight into a giant spider web.  That happens a few times in The Giant Spider Invasion and I cringed every time because …. AGCK!  I mean, it’s a scary thought and The Giant Spider Invasion understands that.  Years ago, I was riding a horse and I rode head first into a spider web and oh my God!  I lost track of how many hours I spent washing my hair afterwards.  Of course, fortunately, I wasn’t in my underwear when I rode into that spider web.  So, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Anyway, The Giant Spider Invasion opens with a meteorite crashing down to Earth.  As I previously mentioned, it lands in Wisconsin.  I can’t help but think that the alien spiders were a bit disappointed when they emerged out of their meteorite and discovered that they were in Wisconsin.  One would imagine that they were probably aiming for Washington D.C. and maybe they got off track.  Still, it works to the spiders’ advantage in that they’ve managed to land in a place so filthy and messy that no one is going to notice a few extra tarantulas crawling around.  Or, at least, they don’t notice until the tarantulas are gigantic and wandering through the fields.

(Go ask Alice …. when she’s ten feet tall…..)

We follow as various people deal with the giant spider invasion.  What we quickly discover is that, in 1975, America just wasn’t ready to make contact with alien spiders.  While Dr. Langer (Barbara Hale) and Dr. Vance (Steven Brodie) investigate the meteorite crash, the rest of the town is too busy with their own personal dramas to be of much help.  The Sheriff (Alan Hale, Jr.) is a buffoon who tries to coordinate a response from the safety of his office.  Dan (Robert Easton) and Ev (Leslie Parrish) obsess on whether or not the meteorites contain diamonds as well as spiders.  Dan has an affair with barmaid Helga (Christine Schmidtmer) while Ev’s younger sister, Terry (Dianne Lee Hart) dates Dave (Kevin Brodie), the son of the local newspaper editor.  Every 15 minutes or so, a crazed-looking preacher pops up and starts ranting about how the world’s going to end because of the sins of people like Dan, Eve, and Helga and, to be honest, the preacher seems to be the only person in town who understands just how much trouble they’re all in.

It’s all kind of silly but, because this is a Bill Rebane film, it all plays out with a certain unbridled enthusiasm that’s impossible to resist.  Rebane was never one to let a low-budget get in the way of his ambitions and the special effects in The Giant Spider Invasion may be cheap but they still have a charm all their own.  I mean, let’s face it.  Spiders are scary and any scene that features a giant one sneaking up on someone is going to be at least somewhat effective.  (I’ll even go on to say that a shot of a “giant” spider super-imposed over a field was actually rather effective and creepy.)  Add to that, The Giant Spider Invasion has only an 84-mintue running time so it doesn’t waste any time getting to the spiders.  This is a fun movie and a perfect one to watch in October.

The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988, directed by Nicholas Corea)


Scientist David Banyon (Bill Bixby) has a secret.  His real name is David Banner and he has spent the last ten years in hiding, traveling up and down the highway and searching for a cure to a very strange condition.  As the result of getting dosed with gamma rays, David Banner sometimes transforms into an angry green monster known as the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno).  The world believes that David Banner is dead and Banner must let them continue to believe that until he can find a cure for the monster within.

The Incredible Hulk Returns is a continuation of the old Incredible Hulk television series, which was the first (and, until the MCU came along, only) successful attempt to build a live action show around a Marvel super hero.  Premiering in 1978, The Incredible Hulk ran for 5 seasons and got good ratings and, for a comic book series, surprisingly decent reviews.  However, it was also expensive to produce and it was abruptly cancelled in 1982, before the show got a chance to wrap up David’s story.  When The Incredible Hulk ended, David Banner was still alone and hitchhiking from town to town.  Six years later, The Incredible Hulk Returns caught up with David and tried to sell viewers on a “new” Marvel hero as well.

David “Banyon” is now living in California and working at the Joshua-Lambert Research Institute.  It’s been two years since he last turned into the Hulk.  He controls his rage by being careful not to get involved in any dangerous situations.  He also has a girlfriend, Dr. Maggie Shaw (Lee Purcell).  David is designing the Gamma Transponder, which he thinks will cure him of his condition.  Life’s good until Donald Blake (Steve Levitt) shows up.

A student of Banner’s, Blake recognizes his former teacher and approaches him with a crazy story.  When Blake was in Norway, he stumbled across a tomb that contained a hammer that contained the spirit of Thor, a Viking warrior who was banished to Earth by Odin.  To prove that he’s telling the truth, Blake commands Thor to emerge from the hammer.  When Thor (played by Eric Kramer) does, he makes such a mess in the laboratory that David transforms into the Hulk.

Thor is not Banner’s only problem.  Jack LeBeau (Tim Thomerson!) and Mike Fouche (Charles Napier!!) want to steal the Gamma Transponder and turn it into a weapon.  Also, reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) s back in town and still obsessed with proving that the Hulk exists.

The Incredible Hulk Returns may be a continuation of David Banner’s story but the main reason it was filmed was so it could serve as a backdoor pilot for a Thor television series.  The Thor TV series never happened and, for those who are used to Chris Hemsworth’s comedic take on Thor, it’s jarring to see Eric Kramer playing the role like a third-tier professional wrestler.  For fans of The Incredible Hulk TV series, it’s even more jarring to see the Hulk fighting alongside a viking.  Unlike the comic book, the TV series usually tried to ground its stories in reality, with Banner’s transformations into the Hulk serving as the show’s only concession to its comic book origins.  The villains played by Thomerson and Napier both seem like typical bad guys from the show’s heyday but Thor just doesn’t belong.  Fans of the show will resent Thor taking the spotlight away from David Banner and the Hulk while fans of Thor will notice that this version of Thor is apparently not the god of thunder but instead just an egotistical viking who got on Odin’s nerves.

Bill Bixby was always The Incredible Hulk‘s not-so-secret weapon, taking and playing his role very seriously.  He continues to do that in The Incredible Hulk Returns but how seriously can anyone come across when they’re speaking to Thor?  By the end of the movie, Thor and Blake head off on their own adventures while Banner resumes hitchhiking.  Thor and Blake would not be seen again but David Banner’s adventures would continue in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.

Game Review: Ghosts Are Good Hosts (2015, Leonard Pilchin)


Waiting for an invitation to arrive
Goin’ to a party where no one’s still alive
Waiting for an invitation to arrive
Goin’ to a party where no one’s still alive

— Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo, lyrics by Danny Elfman

Last night, you dreamed about going to a party that was being thrown by ghosts.  The next morning, you receive an invitation to just such a party.  Of course, you go.  When you arrive, you meet Annabel, who is not a ghost.  However, the ghosts soon arrive and, once gathered around the table, they look at you with hungry eyes.

As the title of this game states, ghosts are good hosts.  However, they also want to eat you and Annabel for dinner!  Since there’s no way for you to leave the dining room without the permission of your hosts, you’re going to have to talk to the ghosts and somehow win them over.  Not even a ghost would be willing to eat its own friend.

Talk to Corsair, Halle, Kal, and Soul.  It’s not hard.  (All you have to do is point and click and then select what questions you want to ask them.)  Get to know them.  Ask them about each other.  Learn about their stories and compliment them at the right time.  Once you think that you’ve won each ghost over, ask them if they want to be “ghost friends.”  Ask too soon and you’ll get rejected and you might even get eaten.  Ask at the right time and you’ll have a pleasant ghost party and you might even make a living friend out of Annabel.

Ghosts Are Good Hosts is a surprisingly challenging but good-natured TWINE game.  The challenge isn’t finding the right questions to ask as much as it’s asking them in the right order and to the right ghost at the right time.  It’s not easy but it is fun, mostly because each ghost has their own unique story and personality.  Along with the wonderful graphics, the game has a retro feel which will appeal to the nostalgia of every 90s kid who used to play games on a big, bulky personal computer.

Ghost Are Good Hosts can be played here.  If you’re struggling to not get eaten, a walk-through is available here.

Horror Scenes That I Love: The Interview With The Chief From Night of the Living Dead


“Yeah, they’re dead …. they’re all messed up.”

There’s a lot of disturbing scenes in the original Night of the Living Dead but I’ve always loved this live, televised interview with the chief of police.  First, there’s the delivery of that classic line.  “….they’re all messed up.”  Yes, they are.  Then there’s the fact that the chief doesn’t seem to be particularly perturbed by the fact that the dead are coming back to life.  Instead, his attitude is very straight-forward.  It’s happening, we need to take care of it, let’s arm some civilians.

Of course, this interview sets up the film’s ending, in which we learn that those helpful civilians with guns are a bit trigger happy and sometimes, the living get in the way.  When you first see this interview, it’s easy to laugh at the sight of the chief’s posse and everyone’s odd confidence that the dead will somehow just go away.  (Death, after all, is the one thing that is guaranteed to happen to everyone eventually.)  Once you know how the story’s going to end, though, this scene becomes much more ominous.

Horror Book Review: By Reason of Insanity by Shane Stevens


By Reason of Insanity, a novel from 1979, tells the story of a truly terrifying killer.

Institutionalized for murdering his own mother, Thomas Bishop manages to escape from the asylum and proceeds to travel across the United States, murdering almost every woman he meets.  For all of Bishop’s attempts to justify his homicidal impulses, it mostly appears that he kills because he enjoys it.  It’s what he’s good at.  It’s what comes naturally to him.  Bishop is a clever and meticulous killer but he’s hardly super human.  That’s what makes him so disturbing.  Unlike someone like Dr. Hannibal Lecter or any of the fictional killers that have been spawned by his popularity, Bishop isn’t some sort of erudite, witty genius with a gimmick and a tendency to only kill the unsympathetic.  He’s just someone who is very good at what he does.  He’s a believable killer and all the more frightening because of it.

The novel, however, isn’t just about Thomas Bishop.  Thank God for that because Bishop is such a nihilistic and misogynistic character that, if this rather lengthy novel took place entirely in his head, it would probably be almost impossible to actually get through it.  The novel also explores the lives of the people who are effected by Bishop’s crimes.  We meet the reporter that follows his crime spree and the detectives who want to stop him.  We meet the ambitious politician who thinks that he can use Bishop’s notoriety as a stepping stone to the White House.  New characters are constantly entering the narrative, some staying for the entire length of the novel and some ducking out almost as quickly as they arrived.  Sometimes, it can be difficult to keep track of everyone but their presence reminds us that the actions of someone like Thomas Bishop do not occur in a vacuum.  They create a ripple effect that eventually touches everyone.

Throughout the book, Bishop obsesses on the identity of his father.  He believes that his father was Caryl Chessman, a real-life criminal who, in the 50s, became a cause celebre for some when he was sentenced to death after being convicted on 17 counts of kidnapping and rape.  (Though Chessman confessed to being the infamous “Red Light Bandit,” he later said that he did so only after being beaten and tortured by the cops.)  From his cell in San Quentin, Chessman protested his innocence and wrote books about his life both outside and inside of prison.  Chessman was eventually executed in 1960.  Bishop, who has spent his entire life under the impression that Chessman was his father, feels that he’s continuing the family legacy.  However, the book’s brilliant final line leaves it to the reader to decide not only whether Bishop was correct in his belief but also as to whether it would have made any difference.  If Thomas Bishop had grown up believing that his father was Pat Brown, the governor who eventually oversaw Chessman’s execution, would he have still become a murderer or would he have instead felt he was destined for a career in politics?  It’s an interesting question.

By Reason of Insanity is a well-written and nightmare-inducing serial killer novel.  With its straight-ahead approach and refusal to try to turn Bishop into an antihero, it’s quite a contrast to the serial killer novels that would follow.  Read it but keep the lights on.

International Horror Film Review: #Alive (dir by Cho Il-hyung)


My feelings on the zombie genre are so mixed.

On the one hand, zombies are scary and zombie movies, when done well, can be genuinely disturbing.  Zombie movies deal with the inevitably of death.  Whenever someone dies, we always say that they’re at peace.  “At least, they’re not suffering anymore,” we say.  Zombie movies suggest that there is no peace after death.  Instead, the suffering of life is just replaced with nonstop hunger and savagery of death.  Meanwhile, the living don’t even get a chance to mourn their dead before they’re forced to kill them again.  Zombies are relentless and they used to be our friends and family.  That’s one reason why zombies haunt us in a way that certain other monsters never will.

At the same time, when it comes to zombie movies, there’s just so many of them!  Seriously, it seems like there must be at least a hundred zombie movies released every year.  We’ve seen so many scenes of the dead running through empty city streets that it’s hard not to get cynical.  The first time you see a reanimated corpse eat its parents, it’s disturbing.  But, by the hundredth time you’ve seen it, it’s just expected.  We now live in an age where every disaster is compared to a “zombie apocalypse.”  Even non-horror fans know about zombies.  The days of zombies being obscure are over.  They’re now firmly a part of pop culture and, as a result, they’ve become a bit annoying.

I say all this because, in many ways, #Alive is a standard zombie film.  This South Korean film opens with Joon-woo
(Yoo Ah-in) in his apartment, playing video games.  When reports come in of something strange happening in the streets of Seoul, Joon-woo goes out to his balcony to see what’s happening.  What he sees is a world gone mad, one in which hordes of growling people run through the streets, biting down and feeding on anyone who gets to close to them.  Yes, the zombie apocalypse has begun and Seoul is apparently right in the middle of it.

And don’t get me wrong.  The zombies are indeed frightening and there’s an exciting sequence where Joon-woo has to force one out of his apartment.  It’s all very well-directed and well-acted by Yoo Ah-in but it’s not anything that we haven’t seen before.  At this point, audiences have seen so many zombie rampages that if a real one ever breaks out, the uninfected will probably start bitching about how different it is from what the movies led them to expect.

What sets #Alive apart is the way it captures the feeling of being totally isolated and alone.  Trapped in his apartment with only a limited amount of food and with no way of knowing whether or not his family is still alive, Joon-woo tries to maintain his sanity.  Joon-woo is isolated from the outside world.  He’s quarantied himself.  Occasionally, he steps out on the balcony and sees if the zombies are still outside.  (They are.)  Occasionally, he checks the news to see if there’s an end in sight.  (There’s not.)  As the days pass, Joon-woo finds himself tempted to surrender to his despair.

But what if Joon-woo isn’t the only person left alive in his apartment complex?  What if, on the other side of the complex, there’s a woman named Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye) who is trying to catch Joon-woo’s attention so that he’ll know that he’s not alone and that she’s willing to help?  And just how much of a risk is Joon-woo willing to take to end his isolation?

That’s a question that feels especially relevant today, at a time when so many people are isolated, either voluntarily or by doctor’s orders.  When a newscaster describes the zombies as being infected, it’s impossible not to think about what’s currently going on in the world.  When Joon-woo discovers how truly difficult it is to be alone and unable to leave your home …. well, that’s the way many people have felt this entire year.  Though #Alive was filmed before the pandemic lock-downs, it feels like a movie about our current times.  As such, it has a power to it that it might not have had if it had been released at a different time.  Like everyone, Joon-woo struggles with fear and despair.  But, at the same time, he never allows himself to forget that he’s not dead yet.  He’s still alive and there’s still hope.

#Alive is a film about how difficult it can be to live while everyone around you is obsessing on death but it’s also a film that encourages its viewers to embrace life, no matter how difficult or frightening the situation.  It’s a film about the dead that ultimately has a lot to say about what it means to be alive.

4 Shots From 4 Ken Russell Films: The Devils, Crimes of Passion, Gothic, The Lair of the White Worm


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re using this feature to recognize and honor some of our favorite horror directors!  Today, we honor the legendary Ken Russell!

4 Shots from 4 Films

The Devils (1971, dir by Ken Russell)

Crimes of Passion (1984, dir by Ken Russell)

Gothic (1986, dir by Ken Russell)

The Lair of the White Worm (1988, dir by Ken Russell)

 

 

Horror Film Review: Host (dir by Rob Savage)


Host tells the story of the Zoom meeting from Hell.

Actually, that description is a case of me being a bit too glib.  Though this hour-long film, which can currently be viewed on Shudder, has received a lot of attention for its Zoom call format, there’s a good deal more going on in Host.  It’s the first film of the COVID-19 era and, when this era finally ends, it’s a film that will remind viewers of what it was like to be locked down and afraid that, even behind closed door and with a mask ready to go, there was truly no escape from the virus.

Host is a British film about six friends, one psychic medium, and one very destructive spirit.  Locked down due to COVID, the friends have weekly Zoom meetings.  Some of them drink wine during the meetings.  One of them smokes a good deal of weed.  The important thing that they’re staying in contact and not allowing the separation to drive them apart.  As so many others have done over the course of 2020, they’ve tried to find some sort of normalcy in a situation that is anything but.  Even though the viewer only spends an hour with these characters, it’s impossible not to relate to what they’re going through.

For this week’s meeting, a medium named Seylan (Seylan Baxter) had been hired to lead the friends in an online séance.  Everyone has a different reaction to Seylan, which I liked.  Jemma (Jemma Moore) seems to be struggling not to laugh as Seylan tells everyone to light their candles.  (I related to Jemma, as I probably would have had the same reaction.)  Emma (Emma Louise Webb) and Caroline (Caroline Ward) are both obviously taking the séance a bit more seriously and are concerned about what will happen when they contact the other side.  Haley (Haley Bishop) tries to keep the group focused while Radina (Radina Drandova) and Teddy (Edward Linard) deal with interruptions from their significant others.

Well, needless to say, the séance doesn’t exactly lead to the best of results.  That doesn’t count as a spoiler because first off, this film is on Shudder and secondly, since when has it ever been a good idea to try to contact the dead?  If there’s anything that I’ve learned from the movies, it’s that the dead are extremely touchy and prone to violence.

Host makes great use of its format.  Every time someone drops out of the meeting, we’re left to wonder if they’ve just temporarily lost their connection or if they’ve been attacked by something from beyond.  When we watch the interaction between the six friends — who feel like a group of real friends, though I don’t know how well everyone knew each other before production began — we find ourselves constantly looking over everyone’s shoulder, searching for any sign of an unexpected presence.  Sometimes, we think we see something just to then discover that it was just our overactive imagination.  Sometimes, we think we something and …. well, we actually do.

Host works because it’s a horror film to which everyone can relate.  It gets to a truth that gets beyond the usual horror movie mechanics.  There’s an interesting scene where one of the zoom participants is forced to flee from her flat.  Even with an evil presence chasing her, she still makes sure to mask up before leaving.  If it’s not the demons waiting to get you while you’re in quarantine, it’s the COVID waiting to get you as soon as you exit.  The greatest fear that many people have had over the past few months is that, even if you isolate and wear your mask and stay inside, the disease is still going to somehow get you.  Much like a demon from the other side, the coronavirus can’t be seen but it could be anywhere.  The evil spirit in Host is not named COVID but it might as well be.