Hosts – Review
A family invite their neighbours over for Christmas dinner with disastrous consequences.
Well, Christmas is getting closer but we still have a little way to go with our Awful Advent feature. Behind door 17 is a British supernatural horror flick set around Christmas. A family invite their young neighbours over for Christmas dinner. Only, something seems off about them. The family will come to almost immediately regret it. As far as Christmas horror movies go, this is a bit of a weird one.
Closer to Await Further Instructions than other Christmas horror. Apparently us Brits don’t like to go for the usual Xmas horror tropes. You don’t find many slasher movies coming from this side of the pond. Still, it is something a bit different which is always good. The Christmas slasher genre is a bit crowded, after all. The question is, is it good? Let’s take a look. As usual, I will give a quick breakdown which you can skip if you like.
Before we get started, I should also point out. Don’t get this movie confused with the similarly titled but far superior Host. That is a screenlife horror movie coming from the UK in 2020. While sharing a name, they are vastly different movies. Why not click the link to check out our review of Host? Its a great movie well worth a watch. Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same for its compatriot Hosts.
We’ve been on a bit of an end of the year run of themed features. We had K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween in October. We had a Fall Themed Horror movie month for November, Now It’s December and that can mean only one thing. It’s Awful Advent. We are reviewing a new horror for each of the days leading up to Christmas. That’s not all, we will also review a bonus movie for Christmas day itself. 25 horror movies to make your December just that little more frighteningly festive… Or should that be festively frightening? I am not sure, whatever.. It’s going to be scary.
The catch? All of the movies must be set around or feature Christmas. Movies based on a specific Christmas theme are even better. Christmas and horror have always gone hand in hand. There are tons of movies to look at and I expect you can probably predict a few right now. Check back every day of December for something new.
Supernatural Christmas Horror
Hosts is a supernatural horror movie with elements of possession and home invasion. Our two main characters, Lucy and Jack, spot some sort of lights floating in their back garden. They go to investigate but don’t find anything. A little while later Lucy is writhing around on the bed. Looking like she is deep throating the narrow end of a flash light. It is apparent that something is seriously wrong.
Aside from how comical this looks. It is supposed to imply that she is now playing host to something. Playing host to what? I am not sure. I don’t think the people who made the movie even know to be honest. Cruel entities with a penchant for philosophical ramblings, I suppose. Oh and don’t forget their tendency to occasionally growl like a low rent deathcore band.
The pair head off to dinner with the neighbours. They act incredibly bizarrely, something that is not once picked up on by the family. Talk very little and then begin causing mayhem.
A Very Loose Plot
If that sounds like a fairly loose story that’s because it is. Hosts is not going out of its way to win any narrative awards. Set against a backdrop of religious themes. Parts of the film act as allegories for tales from the bible. Again, this is rather loose and barely expanded on. It actually has to go out of its way to show visual depictions of the tales it is referencing. You know, just in case you didn’t get it.
It is something of a shame because the first thirty minutes or so are fairly compelling. There is a heavy domestic drama element and it is quite engaging. It sort of hints at something that the movie never manages to deliver on. If a more involved story could have been written to support the violence. This might have been a completely different film. As it stands, however, the initial plot is pointless and, in the grand scheme of things, redundant.
Our family of “victims in waiting” range in age from young to old. Mum Cassie has been recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. A fact that will come into play later on. Everyone’s gathered around for, seemingly, what might be their last Christmas together. Father, Michael, has been keeping a bit of a secret. A secret that actually doesn’t play into the plot at all and is just a bit of added flavouring. We will push the story aside for a little however. After all, that’s what the makers of Hosts did. Who needs story? We have to get to the ultra violence after all.
A Brutal Kill
Within about 20 minutes, I began to get the feeling that Hosts is a film made with one scene in mind. Sitting at the dinner table, we have our first kill. Honestly, it is absolutely brutal. Coming shortly after a sentimental moment shared between the family. It is completely and utterly designed purely to shock the viewer. It comes out of nowhere and feels rather spiteful. Now I am not one to complain about horror violence. As long as no one harms any animals and everyone involved knows what they are getting into. It’s all fair game. Still, when it comes to the setup for this kill. I am not sure why the makers felt this was necessary.
I can’t really go into details without spoiling. Suffice to say, there are a certain group of people that this may specifically offend. I don’t mean race, sexuality or the like. I am referring to people who have been through a specific life situation. Having been through said situation myself. I found the scene to be more funny than anything. I know for a fact this scene will be upsetting to many, though.
Part of me thinks Hosts was made purely with this kill in mind. The rest of the movie feels so disjointed compared to this initial part. It almost feels like a different film altogether. The moments leading up to this are so well developed compared to everything that follows. It’s hard not to imagine that this is the case. It also goes without saying that this is the most violent part of the film. Nothing else comes close. I imagine this scene is, also, the only thing you will remember once you step away from the screen.
An Interesting Process
This movie was made by Adam Leader and Richard Oakes who are known, collectively, as Dark Fable Media. These two are a pair of YouTubers who make videos on the film making process. I believe this film was partly crowd funded but I am not sure. Viewers of their channel were updated throughout on the production process. It’s an interesting approach to making a horror movie. I most definitely applaud them for their openness to share.
Unfortunately, they asked fans to go and give their movie ratings on IMDB and Amazon Prime. The result was a disproportionate number of 9s and 10s and a lot of pissed off people. If there is one thing IMDB users don’t like, it is being duped. 30 1 star reviews later and a bunch more that were only slightly less negative. Hosts’ score has dropped to 4.3 and there is a lot of negativity surrounding it. A cursory browse through a few of the reviews will see the words “worst movie ever” appear frequently. Obviously this isn’t fair but neither is asking your viewers to rate the movie. It is only going to lead to the proliferation of non-organic views. At the end of the day, even if you like this movie. You simply can’t ignore the myriad issues it has.
Tons of Issues
Hosts has a whole bunch of issues that really drag it down. In fact, it is impossible to watch the movie without them jabbing you in the eyes repeatedly. Firstly, the plot is almost completely designed to facilitate the violence. There is no development at all. There is very little explanation and no interesting progression. It is reminiscent of movies like The Strangers. The loose story is there purely to be a vehicle for the horror. Despite this, the film has a significant number of plot holes.
Characters act completely unrealistically just to further the story. The direction is seriously lacking when it comes to creating a sense of realism. In certain scenes characters literally sit there watching as one of the family is brutalised. Not one of them even tries to intervene. I know flight or fight is a real thing but this is taking the piss. This is a recurring theme throughout the movie.
Unbelievable Character Reactions
When Jack and Lucy walk into the house. They don’t greet the family, they don’t make eye contact. They literally stare blankly ahead and march on past everyone. Nothing is said about this. Apparently it is not worthy of note. Another good example is during Christmas dinner. The family are sitting around the table about to eat. The two guests stare blankly ahead. They don’t talk and they don’t eat. One of them abruptly leaves the room with nary a word to excuse himself. One of the characters asks Lucy a question and she doesn’t reply. Nothing is said about it, nobody even seems to notice. This goes on for far too long and is completely ridiculous. Surely, someone would point out how strangely they are acting?
Host’s Characters make decisions that often make absolutely no sense. In one scene, someone has access to a phone. In a moment of unbelievable stupidity. Said character decides to phone someone they know rather than the police. In another scene, a character makes a break for it. They appear to be running for ages only to look back and be about 30 feet from the house. It’s silly and things like this happen over and over again.
A Bad Script and Poor Sound Production
Unfortunately, Host’s issues don’t end there. Scripting is terrible, some of the worst I have seen in quite awhile. I feel like this is a problem with Christmas horror in general. Hosts takes it to a whole new level, though. There is an almost “written by AI” quality to some of the dialogue. The pseudo philosophical ramblings by the host characters are almost comical, as well. That’s without mentioning character’s tendencies to launch into monologues. The sole purpose being to avoid them having to acknowledge how bizarrely the antagonists are acting. Characters will ask Jack or Lucy questions before immediately cutting them off with drawn out rants.
Sound production is shockingly bad. Characters often whisper and poorly set up mics struggle to pick this up. Rather than re-recording those lines. The makers decided to boost the audio. The result is vocal delivery full of distortion and a clearly audible hiss. It sounds incredibly bad. Honestly, this is something I have never noticed in a movie before. I get that this is low budget but this simply feels cheap. Even basic YouTubers can produce content without this hiss. Sure they are whispering directly into a mic but these parts should have been dubbed. It is horribly noticeable.
A Few Positives
On the positive side. Some of the acting in Hosts is quite good. The family has a fairly natural rapport and they try really hard in their roles. This is particularly praise worthy when you consider how bad the script it. Samantha Loxley’s performance was fantastic. She really bought into her character and just looked to be having a ton of fun with it. I sincerely hope that, if nothing else comes of this movie, she gets more roles from it.
Neal Ward is more uneven. Some of his scenes were slightly overacted. This may be more down to the way he was directed. I really shouldn’t have been laughing at his character as much as I was. Some of his expressions are unintentionally comical. I couldn’t help but think he looks a lot like Mark Williams from British Sketch Comedy The Fast Show. I was waiting for him to blurt out “Suits you, Sir!“. Most of the family members were fine. Nadia Lamin is fun when she begins to fight back. Lee Hunter has some decent dramatic moments as Eric, as well.
Some Decent Visuals
Cinematography was generally great. Outdoor scenes look very nice and most shots are nicely framed. Everything is sharp, well lit and suitably moody. The camera can be a bit antsy at times. Some of the more experimental shots feel very out of place, as well. One, in particular, looks like Jack and Lucy are about to drop the sickest rap album of the year. It is very noteworthy for how strange it feels placed in the middle of a film.
Still, this looks like a much higher budget movie than it is. I enjoyed some of the more horror focused shots. Lucy drooling on a character’s head with her tongue hanging out is a fantastic visual. It made me chuckle but I loved it. It’s a great shot. The practical effects were excellent throughout, as well. There are buckets of gore and some of the detail is seriously good.
The domestic drama element of the movie is quite well done. The build up to the Christmas dinner is fairly compelling. The film starts with a lot of promise. It is somewhat disappointing that it devolves into a torture porn devoid of plot. Still, if you enjoy shocking kills, you don’t get much more shocking than the first one here. One that occurs later on is also pretty brutal for its realism. A few scenes stand out, as well, for some interesting body horror. Again, the story doesn’t support these scenes. Character’s motivations for doing the things they are doing aren’t explained. They look good, though, and provoke a suitable feeling of disgust in the viewer.
An Okay Effort
I get that these two film makers are self taught. That’s admirable. I can appreciate what they have done and the effort they put in. Despite this, I really think Hosts is something to build on and little more. There are clearly some areas where they are lacking. Being self taught means you are constantly learning. I have plenty of experience with that. Blowing smoke up their arses isn’t going to help them improve.
Seeing some absolutely glowing reviews seems fairly ridiculous. These reviews are clearly from fans of the pair’s YouTube channel. I understand being a fan but that kind of praise helps nobody. Worse than that, it leaves people feeling duped. These guys are privileged beyond what most people can imagine. Simply having the opportunity to make a movie is incredible. They don’t need people to deceive potential viewers on their behalf.
Ridiculous User Reviews
As of this writing there are 90 reviews for this movie on IMDB. over 20 of them give it a 9 or 10. Compare this to 50+ that give it a 5 or below. 30 people gave it 1 star. Those 20 ridiculously positive reviews are partly responsible for the many negative ones. This isn’t a great movie but it isn’t a terrible one. It is an okay first effort. Claiming that Hosts is the best movie you have ever watched misleads people.
Numerous people are going to remember Hosts. They will remember feeling duped by user reviews. They will be unreasonably pissed off. There is also a chance they will avoid any of the director’s future movies as well. Pointing to the Rotten Tomatoes rating of 83% counts for nothing as well. Without the context that score isn’t worth shit. This is part of the issue with Rotten Tomatoes. The truth is. Most of the critics that reviewed Hosts positively rarely give anything negative reviews. Some critics are just like that. Rotten Tomatoes is not indicative of the truth regarding the movie. Hosts is little more than something for the director’s to build on. If they learn from their mistakes, their future movies might be great. As of right now, they are not quite there.
Is it a Knockout?
Hosts is a an incredibly uneven supernatural horror movie from the UK. Featuring a number of plot holes, some pronounced technical issues, and a really poor script. This is a movie that probably needed to stay in the oven a little longer. An underdeveloped story offers initial promise only to never deliver. Some of the kills are absolutely brutal and might appeal to fans of torture porn. One in particular is noteworthy for how mean spirited it is. A fantastic performance from Samantha Loxley can't save the film from its ultimate mediocrity.