Summer of Horror: Host Not THE Host, and not the OTHER The Host...

“Screenlife” is a bizarre little offshoot subgenre of found footage that came into existence a few short years ago. Unfriended and Searching being two recent examples. Here in the midst of the age of quarantine, the inevitable Zoom horror movie has emerged, and, it’s kind of great!

The most impressive thing about this movie is that it was conceived, shot, produced, and released all within the “shelter in place” phase of this pandemic, which perhaps speaks more to the bleak interminability of this plague, but I digress.

The entire film is confined to the screen feed of the host of a Zoom conference between a group of friends. If you’ve ever participated in one of these (and I’d wager you have), there will plenty of familiar beats. The new participant trying to speak before enabling their microphone, the dropped connections and brief video pauses, even the “free version” time limit. In other words, the filmmakers didn’t cheat on this one and simulate video conferencing in a perfect world like you see it in most films. This was made on Zoom and it retains the awkward messiness that comes with it.

On this particular call, the host has decided to loop in a medium to conduct a seance (of course), which goes bad in short order when one participant decides to troll everyone. Spooky events start occurring and one by one, people start dropping off the call, like some post-modern slasher movie.

Being a found footage movie, after a fashion, the whole thing rests on believable, naturalistic acting and a “less is more” approach to special effects, which this movie achieves. The more you think about what it must have taken to construct this movie, with social distancing in place no less, the more impressive it becomes. At a brisk 56 minutes it doesn’t ask for much of your time. If you have a Shudder membership, there’s no better time to check this one out.

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