In Danny Lacey’s short film Host, a kidnapped game show host, Paul (Raffaello Degruttola), is forced to play a different type of game show; one with real life or death consequences. Questioned by a captor (John Guilor) seen solely on a video screen, Paul suffers as he tries to save those he loves from a similar, or worse, fate.
While a kidnapping victim being menaced by video or otherwise separated-by-technology tormentor is nothing new, there is a sheen to the short’s presentation that elevates the overall endeavor. The way it is shot and edited, coupled with the power of the sound mix and design, goes a long way to make it more interesting than its more familiar narrative elements could do otherwise. That said, even at roughly ten minutes, the short lingers, though probably by design.
Once the stakes are established, it becomes repetitious to keep bringing them up. In that sense, our captor seemingly talks to pad out space, and even the audience is left with a hurried feeling of “get on with it,” as we’re anxious to figure things out too. Then again, this drawn-out feeling works if you look at it as a game show, like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, where the host is constantly reminding the contestant what is at stake while the contestant thinks. In that way, the choices in the film feel appropriate for a game show concept, if also appropriately annoying.
I don’t know that the film carries the dramatic heft it seems to be going for; we don’t really know enough about our host or captor for anything more than the surface “killing and tormenting people is bad” function to kick in. Any revelations don’t really hit that hard, because we don’t know anyone well enough to be surprised by whatever we might hear, or might be implied. Thus we’re learning more about our characters, but we’re not caring more.
Overall, that means the short delivers an experience that is familiar, but not entirely engaging. However, the quality of the filming, the strength of the edit and sound design serve to pick up the slack. Thus Host hits that realm where it’s not bad, it just could probably be better, if we had a real reason beyond the surface to care for our host.
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