Do you ever stop to think about how trusting you are?
A bank website asks for your social security number for verification. You send it. Your friends Venmo you for dinner. You leave the cash in the app. It’ll be there. Even when you buy a ticket for a movie online, you assume when you get to the theater they’ll let you in.
You’re very, very trusting.
But no matter how much you believe the system, there have been times when you’ve had second thoughts. Maybe you’ve left a website without buying because the page looked sketchy. Maybe you’ve told your Uber driver to drop you off at the end of the block. Or maybe you’ve felt a little twinge in your stomach as you made your way down an abandoned tree-lined street to a very creepy AirBnB.
For all that trust, you’ve had your doubts.
Lisa J Dooley explores that moment of hesitation in her wonderful short film THE LONELY HOST.
In THE LONELY HOST, Syliva (Lulu Antariksa) has just landed in L.A. to celebrate her girlfriend’s birthday. After battling traffic, all she wants to do is settle into her AirBnB and get ready for a night out with her love. Unfortunately, her host Rebecca (the fantastic Emily C. Chang) has other plans.
From the moment Sylvia arrives, she knows something is a little off. Rebecca answers the door so fast when Sylvia knocks, its almost as if she were waiting with her hand on the knob. “Wah!” Rebecca yells, snapping a Polaroid of the confused Syliva. “I have a wall of all my guests,” Rebecca tells her proudly. “Much funner to catch you guys off guard.”
It’s surprising, and more than a little weird, but as Syliva walks through her host’s house, she starts to get a different picture. The apartment is cute. In fact, it’s more than cute. Pink and white accents adorn every corner, while strings of paper lanterns give off a warm glow. And everywhere Syliva looks, there’s a motivational quote. “Hang in there, beautiful,” says the sloth poster above the bed.
This woman isn’t creepy; she’s lonely.
It looks like the only crimes being committed in this building are against interior design. At least that’s what Syliva thinks until she returns to the apartment later that night. Is there something more to this lonely host than meets the eye?
I had a great time watching THE LONELY HOST, and I think you will too. With clever camera angles, excellently written characters, and perfectly executed design, Writer/Director Lisa J Dooley does more with fifteen minutes of film than some directors do with two hours. Her visuals work seamlessly with the script to create a world that feels totally real–and very unnerving.
Props should be given to actresses Lulu Antariksa and Emily Chang, who play their characters with conviction (Chang) and subtlety (Antariksa). It’s no small feat to create a fully realized character in a short film, but these actors make it look easy.
The dialog is easy on the ears, too. “Oh and also, I’m not a total weirdo,” Rebecca tells the nervous Sylvia. “I mean, my sofa’s directly next to the door so answering fast is just one of those side effects.” The script is filled with lines that walk the line between funny and freaky without ever feeling fake, which I especially appreciate.
From compelling characters to a clever plot, THE LONELY HOST is the total package. If this is any indication of what Dooley can do (and I bet it is), I can’t wait to see what she tackles next.
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