Shooting a horror film in the midst of a pandemic took a good bit of innovation and gameness on the part of filmmaker Rob Savage and his cast and crew.
In making “Host,” which currently streams on the thriller platform Shudder, Savage (“Dawn of the Deaf”) worked from no script and only a treatment in telling the story of bored friends in lockdown who summon an evil spirit via a seance over Zoom. As filming progressed, he learned what he can and can't do remotely and relied heavily on his actors to do more than just act.
In the end, he had the movie completed in under three months. And the lessons he learned will be carried on to other projects.
“We wanted it to have a kind of sense of authenticity and spontaneity,” Savage explains, “and it was really a group effort on everyone's part, seeing what things we could pull off as a team, everyone throwing ideas (in), We kind of built our script around that, so from the beginning, we were kind of working off treatment; we were working with a story that was kind of evolving day by day as we shot and got new and better ideas. So we kind of embraced the chaos in a fun way.”
And the actors, Savage says, embraced new duties. Each operated their own cameras and did their own lighting and special effects, so a door exploding open behind a character was set up by the actor. Many actors – among them, Haley Bishop (“Deep State”), Edward Linard (“The Rebels”) and Jemma Moore (“Doom: Annihilation”) – were friends of Savage and came onto the film thanks to a prank he played over Zoom that wound up going viral.
“I got bored and I decided to prank them by convincing them that there was a man living in my attic,” Savage explains. “So I got them all on Zoom and I said, 'Being here for emotional support, I'm going to go up and check in my attic once and for all to see if there's anyone living there.' So I pull the ladder down, I get up and I point the camera into the darkness ... and a zombie jumps out and 'kills' me. And all my friends freak out.
“All of the people who were in (on) that are the cast of this film because they're all actors. They just happened to be the friends that I was hanging out with that night, and they happened to all be insanely game and insanely talented. So it was pretty much the easiest casting process in the world.”