Hosts (2020) Will Not Be Delivering Holiday Cheer
First Wide Release: October 2, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Adam Leader, Richard Oakes
Writer: Adam Leader, Richard Oakes
Runtime: 89 Minutes
Starring: Neal Ward, Nadia Lamin, Frank Jakeman
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Jack (Neal Ward) and Lucy (Samantha Loxley) are invited to the family Christmas dinner at their neighbor’s house. Moments before departing and as they are exchanging gifts, they wander outside to investigate a mysterious figure in their yard. Meanwhile at their host’s house, Cassie (Jennifer K Preston) is hard at work cooking dinner while Michael (Frank Jakeman) and the oldest son, Eric (Lee Hunter), are watching the news. In his bedroom, the youngest brother Ben (Buddy Skeleton), plays a boardgame with his sister Lauren (Nadia Lamin) who is casually downplaying her boyfriend’s feelings about spending the holidays apart. All seems to be going well until Jack and Lucy show up at the door and dinner is served.
Hosts is an awkward home invasion thriller whose attempts to subvert fall flat when countered with too many questions.
We begin the clunky narrative with an awkward conversation between neighbors in a field. Jack and Lucy confirm that they will attend their neighbor’s Christmas dinner before they exchange presents themselves. While the moment is briefly sweet and sentimental, the couple is flung back to reality when they observe a strange light emanating from the backyard and the boyfriend goes to investigate. The prologue ends with Lucy writhing on the bed fighting off a blue light overtaking her. After this moment, Hosts never really finds its footing nor does it achieve the potential that it could quite reach.
Initially effective, Hosts takes a nosedive as soon as the couple walks in the front door. From the beginning of their visit, Hosts defies realism by not having a single family member question the couple’s weirdness. It’s apparent and goes beyond what would normally be socially acceptable. Niceties do not extend as far as Hosts will have you believe. The believability of the film continues to spiral downwards as soon as the violence begins.
Characters seem restrained from making any sort of decision that would elevate their chances for survival. At every chance to save another member of their family, the protagonists simply do nothing. Every time. Lauren is the most egregious perpetrator of this issue. This problem of poor decision making extends to our antagonists as well. For some reason this demonic duo decides that the smartest thing to do is to separate their four victims into four different rooms of a single-story house with huge windows. The only reason it works is because none of the characters seem to notice the obvious escape route.
These problems, and more, plague the script of Hosts. It is positively riddled with excessive monologues whose sole purpose seems to pad the film’s runtime to eek past the 85 minutes mark. We also don’t get a chance to really know anything about these characters. Everything is very surface level, even in moments of vulnerability, because we have no stake in their growth or struggle. The development of the plot is severely lacking as well. It wants to be a dark film but one too many moments of silliness take the viewer out of the moment.
There’s a huge focus on television and religious iconography. If a viewer doesn’t pay close attention to one brief news segment on a tv, they will miss a huge answer to the question of why this is happening beyond the plodding monologues inserted into the brief moments of respite from the violence. From what I get, Hosts is supposed to follow demons wreaking havoc on Earth for being dispelled from God’s kingdom. The execution is messy. The juxtaposition of technology and religion is muted but present in the film. I’m not sure how the film could have fixed this, but it isn’t enjoyable or coherent enough in the way it was presented
Hosts isn’t without some positives. Before the horror hits home, the characters feel real (even if we know nothing about most of them). Jack and Lucy are awkward, but still have a fun and energetic chemistry about them. The family does come off as a loving and affectionate right before getting caught in a bad situation. Blue-eyed demons are a nice deviation from typical red and black color palettes that dominate this subgenre. A few memorable scenes caught me off guard and show promise for a much greater feature.
Outside of a few moments, there isn’t much to see here. Hosts is a pretty average film in almost all aspects. I will say that I am confused by some of the animosity others have towards this film. It is getting wrecked online right now and I don’t think that’s really fair. While there is certainly nothing special about it, there’s also nothing super off-putting about it either. Fans of home invasion films might dig it, but for the average film buff or casual viewer, it probably isn’t worth the time. Think twice before inviting it into your streaming queue.
Overall Score? 5/10