'Our pitch was, it's going to be scary': The making of lockdown horror movie Host
We go behind the scenes of Shudder's Zoom call-terror tale with director Rob Savage.
Bored to death with all these identical Zoom calls? Be careful for what you wish for. In the streaming service Shudder's just-released British found footage horror movie Host a group of friends are terrorized by an evil spirit after holding a remote seance.
"We’ve got this opportunity where everyone is using the same video-conferencing, everyone’s stuck at home," says director and cowriter Rob Savage. "Hopefully, touch wood, it’s never going to happen again in the history of the world, [but] everyone is living the same reality. So, we looked at that and were like, we could probably find a way to make this scary. If we can make people more unsafe in their own homes, all the better for it!"
The film has been warmly received by many horror fans — and filmmakers. Director Mick Garris (Nightmare Cinema, The Stand miniseries) tweeted that Host "knocked me out" while Florida Project filmmaker Sean Baker wrote, "Watched Host on Shudder tonight and had a blast. Honestly scary."
"It’s been incredible," says Savage. "Releasing on a genre-specific platform like Shudder, we didn’t know what our audience would be. We made it as horror fans for horror fans, so we were happy that the horror fans responded, but it’s been amazing how much it’s entered the mainstream. We've been featured in all these places that we didn’t think would pay attention to us. It seems to have tapped into something that people are feeling and going through at the moment. We never wanted to make a film of the moment, we just wanted to make something fun that we would want to watch in lockdown. But it’s really blown up. It’s kind of amazing."
Below, Savage explains exactly how he made a movie during lockdown in just twelve weeks — and teases the movie's sequel.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the origin of Host?
ROB SAVAGE: It started actually as a prank video I played on my friends. Basically, everyone in the movie, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, they're friends of mine, who I’ve worked with before. We were doing all the things that everyone was doing [in lockdown], we were doing Zoom hangouts and happy hours and doing quizzes. One day, I decided it might be funny to pretend that a zombie had eaten me live on Zoom. So, I cut together a little clip, and I made a contraption which meant that I could go from filming on my phone to playing them some prerecorded footage. So, I played them this clip where it looked like a zombie had eaten my face off, and put that on Twitter, and that ended up blowing up and becoming this crazy little viral video.
So, off the back of that, we started coming up with ideas and pitched it round a few places. Shudder were the only ones that really got behind the idea that we were sort of going to be making it up as we went along. We didn’t have a script, our pitch was basically, “We don’t have an idea, but it’s going to be scary, you've got to trust us.” Shudder totally got on board and we really just figured it out as we went along.
How did you get the cast and crew together?
That’s one of the things that was really exciting, when we realized that anyone with an internet connection could be part of our film. We made a big master list at the start of the process of cool people who were furloughed and basically waiting for a phone call to do something. We had a bunch of stunt performers who were all isolating, and we had pyrotechnics people, and special effects people. We just figured out ways to sneakily cut between these different locations, so we could cut from an actor’s house into a stunt performer’s house, they’d do a crazy stunt, and we’d cut back.
There were a couple of times watching the movie when I definitely thought, How did they do that?
That’s what we wanted. We thought people would have pretty low expectations as (1) [it's] a Zoom horror movie, which sounds on paper like a really bad idea, and (2) that it was made in lockdown. We knew at the beginning people would have low expectations of what we could achieve. We really wanted to have a couple of moments where people would say, "How did they do that? And how did they do that in lockdown?"
How long did it take you to make?
From coming up with the idea of doing it at all, to delivering to Shudder, the whole thing was 12 weeks. It really was a super intense process. We did two weeks of script, we did two weeks of shooting, and the rest was kind of editing and pick-ups.
Do you have sequel plans?
It’s a spiritual sequel. It’s not directly following on from the events of Host, but it takes place in the same world, it takes place in a similar format, it’s found footage again. It’s very much about what’s going on right now, but it takes a totally different perspective. If Host is about the horror of lockdown, then the new one is more about the horror of opening up in an unsafe world. We’re really exited about it and we’re hoping to get going on that really soon.
So, we’ll be able to see it a week from Tuesday?
[Laughs] Basically, yes.
Host stars Haley Bishop, Radina Drandova, Edward Linard, Jemma Moore, Caroline Ward, and Emma Louise Webb. The film was written by Savage, Gemma Hurley, and Jed Shepherd.
Host is available to watch on Shudder.