Writer/directors Adam Leader and Richard Oakes’ Hosts is a possession/home-invasion horror film that takes place over a Christmas eve dinner.
Jack (Neal Ward) and Lucy (Samantha Loxley) attend a Christmas gathering at their neighbors The Hendersons. Halfway through the meal a shocking act of violence leads to an unending nightmare.
This movie gave me a mix of reactions. The filmmakers were clearly working with a smaller budget and they rightly confine the story to only a couple of locations. Though the budget restrictions are fairly obvious, the film never looks cheap. There is certainly some gory fun to have. But for a possession movie, the film errs on the side of nasty, while never being particularly scary.
While I’m not familiar with anyone in this film, the acting is overall quite strong. There are a couple moments of extreme overacting, particularly from Neal Ward. But I do get the impression that that’s what the filmmakers asked him to do. The standouts for me were Frank Jakeman as the family patriarch Michael. There’s also Nadia Lamin as his daughter Lauren, whose performance is big and bold.
The old school practical blood and gore effects are plentiful and quite well executed. The film revels in its nastiness with a bizarre intimacy that is purposefully off-putting. The licking, the touching of faces, putting fingers into mouths. There’s also the extreme close-talking that are all very effective in making the audience very uncomfortable.
I quite enjoyed the way Hosts was shot. Early on the framing is very symmetrical with many of the shots being static. As the nightmare of the evening deepens however, it shows more and more dutch angles. The camera movements become unsteady and jarring. The film designed all of this to make us feel off, and it certainly worked for me. The transition between the two filming styles was rather subtle. I didn’t even notice how much it had changed until towards the end.
One aspect of Hosts that really stood out to me in the negative was the dialogue. There were a number of lines that just felt cheesy, but also a good few scenes where the dialogue was incredibly repetitive. One sequence in particular between Lauren and her brother Eric (Lee Hunter) is very tense and has beautiful acting. But it feels like it stretches the script to give the scene more time to build tension before its breaking point. To achieve this added time, each character makes their point. Then they double and triple down on their points without adding new thoughts. And some of these lines are almost identical to others earlier in the scene. This happens in other sequences as well, but it’s definitely at its most obvious and frustrating here.
Hosts is nothing particularly special, but it does boast some very strong performances, and if you appreciate blood and gore, you’ll definitely get that.