The hostess with the mostess: HOST (A review, of sorts. No spoilers.)

Merry Sunday!

I’m writing this half a year after my first post about COVID-19. We’re six months into the pandemic, and what do we have to show for it? A horror movie set during this same pandemic, that’s what. Host is the first movie I’ve seen – maybe it’s the first one, period – that was filmed and set during the COVID-19 pandemic, entirely centered around it.

 

 

Host is an impressively effective found-footage horror film. It’s about six friends who want to hold a séance. How can a séance take place during quarantine, you may ask? Over Zoom, of course. It’s a simple yet interesting concept. What happens when you enter into a Zoom séance is that you can see what’s going on with each participant. And what happens when you’re on your laptop at home watching the movie about said Zoom séance is that from your perspective, it looks like you’re involved, too. Your screen looks exactly like it does when you’re taking part in a Zoom gathering.

The movie, a Shudder original, was made entirely during quarantine. It was written, filmed, edited, etc. in a hurry, and on a low budget. It was shot over video chat, with each actor being directed remotely. The actors had to do their own stunts and practical effects. They played characters with their same names, which likely made it seem more real to them. They had a script, but they also had ample opportunity for improvisation as they responded to each other in the Zoom meeting. Apparently, some of the lines were redacted in the actors’ scripts (below their own lines), so they didn’t know what was going to happen next.

It did seem chillingly real. A found-footage film with more practical effects than special effects/CGI amounts to a pretty damn authentic horror movie experience. Being alone in a dark house in front of my computer watching a séance unfold over Zoom made it easy to forget that I was watching a movie, and you know that things went disastrously wrong as the séance got underway. It was an intense 57 minutes. I spent much of it clutching my throat and holding my breath.

My plan was then to take my shower and write this post. Instead, I watched an episode of Shameless in order to crowd Host out of my head so that I could get into the shower, and then a smothering sleepiness overcame me, and all I could do was crawl into bed. Nenette was somehow inspired to alternately run and trot through the house after her ball in erratic bursts of energy, occasionally yowling and slamming into things in the dark. I fell asleep with my nerves frayed.

Host works. I was alone, but I actually saw it “with” my friend Caroline. (It was our first horror movie “date” since 2019!) We got on the phone and counted down to hit “play” at the same time, and then we hung up. We got back on the phone afterward and found each other to be equally spooked.

It was good. It was really, really good, and easily my favorite movie of 2020 so far. If you’re into horror, I highly recommend that you sign up for Shudder’s 7-day free trial just to watch this film, if you’re not already subscribed.

I’ll leave you with the trailer:

 

 

Have a great what’s left of your weekend, friends.

 

 

PHOENIX FORGOTTEN. (PTSD diagnosis story AND a review, of sorts. No spoilers.)

We went to watch Phoenix Forgotten, which brought back the year of 1997.

As I sat there, it occurred to me for the first time that the beginning of my PTSD coincided with the Phoenix Lights.

[NOTE: The link function to open the linked page in a new window is down at the moment, so you’ll have to back-arrow to get back here]

NOTE: Scroll all the way to the bottom for my very brief and informal “review” of Phoenix Forgotten.

Probably many of us living here in Phoenix metro in 1997 remember the lights that moved over the Valley in March. For me, 1997 was also eventful because it involved numerous doctors throughout the year. 1997 was the year I was diagnosed with PTSD. Yes – six years post-main event.

I wasn’t in school in 1997. I was taking a year off, the year after college and before grad school. There were only two things on my agenda for 1997: write poems and train for my black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I was also working.

So I was doing all of that, just minding my own business, like you do, and then, one night, I went to bed feeling sick to my stomach. As soon as I closed my eyes, my heart jumped in and crashed the party, like, Hey! I’m here too! Whheeeeeee! Cannonball!!!… and I couldn’t breathe, and I thought I was going to die of a cardiac event.

Then I was waking up. It was morning. What the hell just happened?

It happened again the next night, and the next and the next. It got to a point where I was too gun-shy to go bed. Going to bed had become a horrifying prospect, so every night, I put it off until I was passing-out tired. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the doctor sooner.

Eventually, I did go to the doctor, because I had an episode that was different than the others, and that was the proverbial last straw.

In that episode, I was trapped in another dimension and I was going to die for sure. Somewhere between awake and sleep, something happened. If I was completely asleep, it would’ve been a nightmare. Whatever this was, it was psychedelic and real, like, 3D real… and that was on top of the physical Armageddon that was my new normal. After I survived that night, I finally went to the doctor.

*****

1997 became a year of medical mystery. I went back and forth between different internists and specialists, cardiology and gastroenterology and cardiology again, everyone referring me to everyone else. I was deemed healthy – good news! – but I was still having these ridiculous episodes.

Then my baffled first internist started asking me questions about my background. When it came out that I was a combat vet, she referred me to a shrink. The shrink explained that panic attacks mimic heart conditions and other physical issues, which was why no one thought of the PTSD possibility.

He explained that the first episode was a panic attack. After it recurred nightly for a period of time, it became a panic disorder (PTSD, in my case). And the next-level attacks, he said, were “night terrors.”

Why did it take so long for the PTSD to manifest? He said it wasn’t unusual for vets to come home fine and then experience a trigger years later. The trigger could be anything, he said. So what was my trigger? We’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter.

All we know is that my PTSD was triggered by something in the spring of 1997. Coincidentally, I’m sure, the Phoenix Lights also happened in the spring of 1997.

*****

I sat in the movie theater remembering and pondering all of this, and that is how my non-review movie review became a post about my PTSD diagnosis.

I can’t be objective about this movie, but I can say that in my opinion, it wasn’t bad.

Phoenix Forgotten begins on a robust note, then bleeds out into the Found Footage horror movie sub-genre. In my experience, Found Footage movies made after the first Blair Witch Project are doomed to the basement where Bad Horror Flicks live. I often really enjoy Bad Horror Flicks, but I can’t even say whether this movie was bad enough to qualify as that bad.

If you’re intrigued by the Phoenix Lights and/or you’re a fan of Found Footage horror movies, you may dig this one.