“Host,” a brand new horror film a couple of haunted Zoom assembly, is first rate, so far as high-concept style workouts go. It’s solely 56 minutes lengthy, options some cool sensible stuntwork due to the crew at Fortunate 13 Motion, and is surprisingly not overbearing in its depiction of the Approach We Dwell Now throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Co-writer/director Rob Savage’s supernatural calling card film is a fantastic sufficient approach to kill an hour, which is about so long as an episode of status TV. “Host” doesn’t actually must be higher than that, although its creators’ modest ambitions most likely received’t blow you away both.

Savage’s undertaking begins, continues, and ends merely: six pals go surfing to Zoom for a video chat seance, led by the flakey, however serious-minded Irish spiritualist Seylan (Seylan Baxter). No one however Seylan takes this ritual critically, although Haley (Haley Bishop), the group’s compulsory scold, does attempt to get her pals to look respectful. Naturally, it’s solely a matter of minutes earlier than Haley’s besties are laughing, although their snotty conduct is just too delicate to be memorable, not to mention worthy of the grisly occasions that comply with. I imply, possibly you’ll chuckle when Haley and the gang take a drink each time Seylan says “astral aircraft.” However even in case you do snigger, you’ll nonetheless be ready with the remainder of us for one thing to leap out of a perilously under-lit doorway, closet, or staircase.

The film’s haunted carnival experience vibe is inevitably examined by the film’s high-concept premise. What number of occasions are you able to have a look at the identical darkish corners, and count on to be terrified when varied family objects both fly in the direction of or away from the digital camera? How a lot useless air can you’re taking earlier than the film goes from “creepy” to “clammy”? And what number of irrelevant and/or unexplained supernatural props must be launched earlier than you notice that you just’re being organising for some good smack-you-in-the-face soar scares?

Savage and co-writers Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd do a fantastic sufficient job organising their film’s higher set items, nevertheless it’s laborious to miss some apparent foreshadowing right here, and a few ham-fisted symbolism there. To be truthful, convincing jaded horror followers to look previous a gimmicky premise like “possessed on-line group chat” is a tough bar to clear. But it surely’s not unattainable, as you may see in different latest video-chat-centric “Screenlife” horror films, most of which really feel just like the Net 2.zero descendants of “The Blair Witch Mission” (“Unfriended” remains to be the very best instance of this already played-out pattern).

You usually should attempt to keep within the temper whenever you’re watching “Host.” Each new plot level seems like a pretext for programmatic soar scares. Caroline (Caroline Ward) breaks out her selfie stick when she appears at, after which later climbs up her attic stairs. Emma (Emma Louise Webb) sprinkles flour on the ground, which later reveals just a few spooky footprints. And Haley makes use of her Polaroid digital camera to identify one thing hanging in her bed room doorway. Bleeding, blurry faces leap out of the shadows. And know-how at all times determines what you may, and might’t see. Typically, that’s humorous. Deliberately, even, like when a “Operating out of time?” warning flashes on-screen because the film begins to wind down.

It’s good to see that the primary horror film to particularly handle our current hellish circumstances is as unpretentious and tidy because it is. And “Host” is one of the crucial entertaining new horror films to be launched since quarantine started in mid-March (“Following,” one other latest Screenlife flick, additionally has its moments). “Host” is price a glance if you have already got a Shudder subscription, however don’t knock anyone over in your haste to catch it.

Obtainable immediately on Shudder.