Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Fans of straight out violence and gore will find a fair bit to enjoy here."

The phenomenon of films taking on the same subjects at the same times is well known these days, but in a year when two independent productions present us with dinner parties interrupted because the guests are infested by parasites, one has to wonder if there's something in the water. They are, however, very different in tone. Whilst Robert Woods' An Ideal Host is all fun and meta-cinematic games, this film, by Adam Leader and Richard Oakes, tackles the ugliness of the scenario head on.

The introductory scenes include time spent with young couple Jack (Neal Ward) and Lucy (Samantha Loxley) at home. It's a beautifully written, intimate piece of drama which gives both actors a chance to show what they can do and lets viewers engage with them before they undergo a transformation. Lucy reports seeing strange lights in the grass which, though small, make her unaccountably nervous. A few minutes later, she seems devoid of any emotion whatsoever. From here on out, she and Jack will be following something else's agenda.

Despite this promising start and some strong scenes set in the neighbours' house where the couple have been invited to share a festive meal, the bulk of Hosts is devoted to hiding, running around, intimidation and straight out bloody violence. There's some logic to this. The parasites, which seem to be alien in origin, are interested in studying humans but more by way of stress testing that gaining deep psychological insight. They have an odd methodology in keeping with something that doesn't really understand the design principles of the thing it's trying to deconstruct. This adds a degree of spookiness to what would otherwise be pretty routine horror.

The downside of this choice is that one can't help but feel that the directors' real talents are being wasted. All the characters here are well drawn and the family dynamics among the neighbours are well observed in ways that viewers will relate to. The first shock of violence occurring in this scenario is very effective and the reactions of the characters, whilst they might frustrate some viewers, are within the bounds of realism. Once brutality takes over, however, all this subtle work is forsaken. Events work their way towards a predictable conclusion in predictable ways.

Fans of straight out violence and gore will find a fair bit to enjoy here. There's some nice effects work and some nicer directorial work, which makes us imagine a good deal that we don't see. This is among the smarter and more satisfying films of that ilk available this Halloween season. The disappointment comes simply from the sense that it ought to have been something more.

Reviewed on: 17 Oct 2020
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Hosts packshot
When a family invites their neighbours, a sweet young couple, over to celebrate Christmas Eve and some very happy personal news, they do not realise that their dinner guests have just become hosts to malicious entities.

Director: Adam Leader, Richard Oakes

Writer: Adam Leader, Richard Oakes

Starring: Neal Ward, Nadia Lamin, Frank Jakeman, Jennifer K Preston

Year: 2020

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: UK


Frightfest 2020

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