A feature debut from co-directors Adam Leader and Richard Oakes, who also co-wrote the movie, Hosts is a horror film that should entertain genre fans after a bloody treat. And it certainly makes a decent calling card for Leader and Oakes.
Jack (Neal Ward) and Lucy (Samantha Loxley) are a young couple who have been invited to a neighbour's home for Christmas dinner. But something strange happens just before they head over there. One major bout of possession later, Jack and Lucy are out for blood. And they're also aiming to get Michael (Frank Jakeman), the patriarch of their Christmas dinner hosts, to be more honest with his family. That's really all there is to this, although there are a few more details to come out, both in relation to the family and to the two evil entities.
Ward and Loxley do good work in their main roles, enjoying some time as normal characters in the first few minutes before becoming unfeeling killers. Jakeman is also very good, as are all of his family members (played by Nadia Lamin, Jennifer K Preston, Lee Hunter, and Buddy Skelton, the youngest of the lot). Although there are times when the cast struggle to deliver some of the more ridiculous lines of dialogue, they're not a major problem. I don't think any actors could do well with certain parts of this screenplay.
The biggest problem that Hosts has is when the film-makers move away from the simple core of the film. Although I understand that they may have been worried about delivering something a bit too slight to justify the 89-minute runtime, there's something refreshing about a film that takes one main idea and effectively works a feature around it. It's debatable whether or not Hosts could have been tweaked in other areas to still make it work, but perhaps slimming it down even further could have been beneficial. The opening sequence is enjoyably unexplained, which means that every bit of dialogue that subsequently tries to explain some of the motivation feels unwanted and unnecessary. And the moments that go off on a bit of a tangent, having the actors wax lyrical about some evil deeds, are worse.
Leader and Oakes do a decent job with their direction. It's a shame that they can't avoid one of those main first-time mistakes, scenes that feel as if they either grind things to a halt or simply repeat earlier beats. That's not the biggest error that a film-maker can make though, and there are one or two fantastic gore gags that help to punctuate the proceedings, but it's enough to keep the film from being a truly great discovery.
Hosts is a good, grisly, bit of macabre entertainment. I'd recommend it, and look forward to what Leader and Oakes do next. It's probably not one to revisit though, and some people will probably like it a fair bit less than I did.