Host is a low-budget, high-concept horror that'll blow you away

HOST

Shudder (15) 56mins

★★★★★

CREATIVITY in lockdown has been underwhelming for most people but thankfully for the film industry there are at least some people with enough impetus to get off their arses and make something great. Host is exactly that.

If lockdown could be summed up in one word, it would almost certainly be Zoom.

The ubiquitous software has become a game-changer – and an annoyance – in five short months. In this low-budget but high-concept horror movie, it is used to its absolute limit.

For a brisk hour, we watch a group of six quarantine friends attempt a virtual seance, with pretty impressive results.

It’s so short it gets straight into it – the usual mix of characters (annoying, quiet, quirky, loud, non-believer) are all highly cynical and pretty hammered by the time their spiritualist joins the room to summon some spooks.

Their sarcastic attitude doesn’t go down too well with one ghost in particular, who . . .  well, it doesn’t want a cuddle, that’s for sure.

Obviously there are the usual tropes – creeping into dark rooms and jump scares galore – but the film’s technical limitations are also its strengths, in the same way Blair Witch made use of camcorders, or Paranormal Activity with its CCTV shots.

Who knew that Zoom’s “change background” feature would give one of the scariest cinema moments of 2020?

This is only available on the horror platform Shudder, but please go seek it out – it’s bloody brilliant.               

PERFUMES

Curzon Home Cinema (15) 100mins

★★★★☆

A MIDDLE-aged love story? Yes, possibly, but this gentle comedy drama – in French, with subtitles – is as subtle as the fragrances our protagonist conjures up.

Anne Walberg is a professional “nose” – someone whose sense of smell is so precise they are sought after for everything from perfume creation (at least, she used to be) to corporate jobs disguising the horrible smell seeping from a factory into a nearby village.

Her reputation took a knock a few years ago and as she tries to rebuild it, she happens upon Guillaume – a single dad, himself looking for direction.

He is tasked with chauffeuring the aloof Anne on her rounds.

As the story develops, so too does their relationship, which always hints at something sexual, even if it doesn’t quite get there.

What begins as a master and servant dynamic eases into something more even and co-dependent.

It’s the type of companionship you rarely look for in life, but are happy for when it arrives.

As with most Gallic rom-coms, it’s shot and presented in an unassuming and casual way – stylish and sexy without ever really attempting to be either. You know, French.

I found the performances captivating, particularly the dishevelled Guillaume’s Robin Williams-esque attempts to maintain a relationship with his daughter.

The subject matter is intriguing too. For instance, did you know that the smell of cut grass is an enzyme created by grass to send an SOS that it is under attack? You do now!

When Harry Met Sally for people old enough to know better.   

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