The Movie Waffler First Look Review - HOSTS | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - HOSTS

hosts review
A Christmas Eve dinner takes a nasty turn.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Adam Leader, Richard Oakes

Starring: Neal Ward, Samantha Loxley, Frank Jakeman, Nadia Lamin, Lee Hunter, Jennifer Preston, Buddy Skelton

hosts poster

The title of directors Adam Leader and Richard Oakes' Hosts refers to both its protagonists and antagonists. The former group consists of the family of Michael (Frank Jakeman), who have gathered for a Christmas Eve dinner tempered by the knowledge that it may be the last Christmas they get to spend together, as Mom Cassie (Jennifer K Preston) is seven months into chemo treatment for inoperable cancer. Michael, Cassie and their kids - grownups Lauren (Nadia Lemin) and Eric (Lee Hunter), and youngster Ben (Buddy Skelton) - are playing host to the nice young couple from across the field, train driver Jack (Neal Ward) and teacher Lucy (Samantha Loxley). Little do they know that Jack and Lucy are themselves hosting some sort of demonic entities that took possession of them after they investigated a pair of mysterious glowing blue orbs floating about in their garden.

hosts review

Hosts is a confoundingly composed chamber piece that conceals information in a way that's supposed to surprise us with its revelations, but merely leads to irritation as we spend much of the running time scratching our heads. Giving the film the benefit of the doubt, I assumed by the climax we would be filled in on why Jack and Lucy were chosen by the mysterious orbs and why in turn they targeted the family of Michael. Early on, Michael throws out an ambiguous line about something having happened to Jack's parents, but the film strangely never brings this up again. While possessed, Lucy monologues an allegorical tale that suggests perhaps it's the spirits of Jack's parents who have taken possession of the pair, but later on more possessed strangers turn up. Have they too been somehow wronged by Michael? And what about the reference to fracking and electrical anomalies heard on a news broadcast in the background? It's suggested that an electrical signal is the vessel for the possessions, and at one point a character is rescued by having the power cut off, but how do you explain Jack and Lucy's possession, which had nothing to do with electricity?

hosts review

As you can tell, I spent most of Hosts asking the sort of questions I really shouldn't have been forced to ponder. The script is frankly a mess, constantly forcing us to second guess characters' motivations. For roughly the first third of the movie I mistook it for a comedy, as the behaviour of Michael and his family towards the clearly possessed Jack and Lucy is impossible to take seriously. It reminded me of that gag in Night of the Creeps where a co-ed tries to break up with her boyfriend, oblivious to the fact that he's been zombified. Ironically, Hosts was functioning far more successfully as an unintentional spoof than it ultimately does when things take a dark turn. There's an early incident that plays like a great piece of macabre comedy, but it's immediately after this point that we realise, actually, the film wants us to take all this very seriously. Once the comedy, whether intentional or not, is removed, the movie becomes little more than a second rate home invasion thriller, one bogged down by its attempts to channel Shyamalan-esque intrigue.

hosts review

You have to feel sympathy for the cast, who are largely impressive, particularly Jakeman, who really is giving it his all to create a sympathetic character, even if it's a character that doesn't make a lot of sense. As the possessed Lucy, Loxley is a creepy presence, playing the bad girl with malevolent glee. I can't help wonder if any of the cast members asked their directors that classic thespian query of "What's my motivation?", as it's something I found myself asking throughout this confounding film.

Hosts is on US VOD/Digital from October 2nd. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

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