‘Hosts’ Review: Dirs. Adam Leader & Richard Oakes [Alternative Christmas]

Hosts, not to be confused with Host, is a first-time feature from directors Adam Leader and Richard Oakes, and tells a story of a rather horrific dinner party. Set in the lead up to Christmas, young couple Jack (Neal Ward) and Lucy (Samantha Loxley) are invited to their neighbours for dinner. However, before they can leave the house, their bodies are taken over by strange and hostile life-forms. These creatures then visit the neighbours and exact an intricately planned revenge on the family.

Sharing some similarities with Await Further Instructions and Secret Santa, it’s easy to see how Hosts might appeal to audience. We have a bickering family having to come together to take on an unexplained menace, one that demands that they comply. Before events arrive at that point though, Leader and Oakes take the time to show who our characters all are. As they sit around the dinner table, we get to witness their natural interactions with one another and can place exactly how their family dynamic is framed. It’s a great scene that includes a massive and drawn out announcement from the mother, after which the possessed Lucy and Jack reveal their malicious intentions in a spectacular fashion. This moment offers the big WTF instance in the film, with what follows trying, and unfortunately failing, to capture that same magic.

It is the possessed pairing of Lucy and Jack that gives the best performances, potentially as they have the most to do. The rest of the cast spend the bulk of the film restrained and just play frightened. As Lucy and Jack though, Samantha Loxley and Neal Ward get to show much more range. We first meet them as their happy and in-love human selves, before witnessing their change into these white-eyed other beings. The switch within each is interesting to see. The hijacked Jack is an eloquent speaker and uses his words to inflict harm on our hostage. Our new Lucy however, is a silent menace, much more animalistic in behaviour. It is Loxley’s performance that is the more intimidating of the two. You never quite know what she might do and when, and Loxley commits completely to the more extreme elements of her character.

As sinister as the dinner guests are, Hosts suffers from some plot confusion. There’s a few silly moments that make it hard to tell whether it’s trying to be deliberately funny, or is just an attempt to infuse the story with humour. Then there are the usual low-budget first-time feature niggles in terms of production, but overall, Hosts works. Two fantastically committed performances from Samatha Loxley and Neal Ward help to make Hosts an entertaining and occasionally creepy watch.  

Hosts is available on Digital HD now.

This review first appeared on THN.