Horror in the time of Corona
An interview with Host's Jed Shepherd
words by Kira Comerford
For all of the turmoil the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has been responsible for, there has been one silver lining for horror fans. Set your minds back to the start of August when Shudder released HOST – a lockdown-inspired horror that kicked up quite a storm.
The film centres itself on a Zoom seance that inevitably goes wrong, and, as very quickly became clear, it was just the kind of thing we needed to keep going throughout these trying times.
HOST has been the talk of the town since it dropped, and for good reason. The tightly-wound feature delivered some big scares and a real sense of unease wrapped itself around the entire viewing experience. Personally, I am a huge fan, and so was delighted to get the chance to ask Jed Shepherd, one of the fantastic minds behind the film, all about it.
(Horrified) Was the film an idea you’d had before COVID-19 wrote off the entirety of 2020, or was it something that materialised as a result of lockdown?
(Jed Shepherd) No, we came up with it, made it and released it during 12 weeks in lockdown. Up until then, our WhatsApp group, ‘QUARANTINE MOVIE CLUB’ – made up of actors and crew who are all mates – was just watching movies every day. Director Rob Savage pulled a prank on everyone which involved him being freaked by a zombie kid in his attic and pretending to die. We recorded it on Zoom and it showed the reactions of all of our friends. We put it online and it blew up, getting 7million views in just a few days. After that we hooked up with Shudder to make a longer version!
(H) Where exactly did the idea to have the film centred around a seance gone wrong come from? Is it something that anyone involved in the project had had experience with?
(JS) That was from me. Rob called me to explain that for some mad reason, Shudder were trusting us to turn the 2-minute prank video into a feature film. The only problem was we had no idea how we were gonna do it. Then at 4:24am, I texted Rob two immortal words, “Zoom Seance”, and the rest is history. I knew it had to be an activity on Zoom that a bunch of our friends could do, so it felt natural that we’d end up doing a seance after the boredom of quizzes hit.
(H) How much work was involved in getting the film together? How difficult was it with all of the restrictions that were in place at the time of production?
(JS) There was no precedent for this; we had to build the tracks in front of us, so the learning curve was high. The fact we made the film with our mates made it a lot easier. The actors could roll out of bed and be on set (their own houses). We’d made a bunch of films together before so we all knew how each other worked. For me personally, it was relatively easy, but for Rob and our producer Doug Cox, it must have been a daily nightmare. The entire cast and crew worked their asses off on something really weird, but it’s paid off for everyone involved. Rob and I do not like to sit still, so we are forever pitching each other the next project or tweaking current ones. Just because we are in lockdown doesn’t mean that our brains need to be.
(H) The film has gone down a treat with just about everyone who’s watched it so far – there’s a lot of buzz! Do you think the world we find ourselves in today has played a part in helping people get behind HOST? Is it a more accessible story because of current circumstances?
(JS) HOST wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for this crazy situation we find ourself in, and it reflects situations that people are going through right now. It’s extremely current and the fact it feels so authentic (which all good found footage should) means that there is some catharsis from watching people in a situation you can recognise in yourself. The reaction across the world, critically and from the fans, has been very unexpected but I’m sincerely grateful. I could never have expected it in my wildest dreams, so every day I’m waking up extremely happy that it’s touched people the way it has.”
(H) So… what’s next?
(JS) Next up, Rob and I are working with Sam Raimi on a new horror film. We also have a women-in-prison horror film that we are making with StudioCanal and a few more projects to announce shortly.
It sounds like there are some exciting things on the way from these great minds in the very near future, and if HOST was anything to go by, I for one am absolutely thrilled to see what they turn out next.
HOST is available go watch now via Shudder
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