02nd Oct2020

‘Hosts’ VOD Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Neal Ward, Samantha Loxley, Frank Jakeman, Nadia Lamin, Lee Hunter, Jennifer Preston, Buddy Skelton | Written by Adam Leader | Directed by Adam Leader, Richard Oakes

Yes Yes Yes! It’s finally happening… we finally get to talk about Hosts. It feels like a lifetime ago the crew made the announcement on their Dark Fable Media YouTube channel, followed by a somewhat manic live stream in an effort to raise funds for the flick. Being an avid supporter of all things indie cinema – especially in the UK – you could say Hosts has been on my radar for some time. Of course many a time I have been hyped up for a project just to have my hopes dashed and add to this Hosts is a brand-new horror film from a pair of first time directors… which can often fail at the best of times! Sorry, that was a bit cynical.

So with all of that said I was looking forward to sitting down and getting into Hosts because even if you didn’t know anything about this flick well the trailer they released was bloody intriguing, visually striking and who doesn’t love seeing people covered in blood?!

It’s Christmas Eve, Jack (Neal Ward) and Lucy (Samantha Loxley) have been invited around to their neighbors for dinner however we shortly find they are going to be doing some hosting of their own (if you know what I mean). The unsuspecting family welcome them into their home and the couple make light work of terrorizing our unsuspecting victims in violent, brutal and disturbing ways. Lauren (Nadia Lamin) is recognized fairly quickly as a strong threat as she slowly turns into an ultra bad ass to protect herself and her family from the horrors inside but lets be honest things may not be much better out there. A slow burn home invasion possession flick that not only begs the question of how far you could push yourself to fend off otherworldly demonic threats but also makes you wonder just how much you know about your own family, as they begin to realize they are maybe not as tight knit as they once thought. Think Christmas round Ian Beales place only replace his family with the one from Chainsaw Massacre and you are pretty close.

I’m not a massive “bodysnatchers” type film fan to be honest; and I find possession movies to be a bit samey, I mean how much can you really do with that particular genre? Which is why I was very pleased to see that while, yes, that was the over-arcing theme; filmmakers Richard Oakes and Adam Leader had decided to ground everything in a more home invasion fashion, paying closer attention to the family relationships and setting things up early for payoffs later on. This made all the supernaturally eerie goings on way more tense, way more relatable and not only that but I found myself really getting into it. Then you throw some great tension building, some very VERY well done practical gore effects that show you every detail unapologetically and some squeamish shenanigans that tend to happen when you least expect them and well… You’re onto a winner. Spoilers… This cast and crew are onto a winner here too!

There are some absolutely superb performances in Hosts that I want to take a minute with, starting with our two bad buggers. Neal Ward and Samantha Loxley for me ARE this movie… Like I said before I’m not that into possession horror and my main reason for this is that more often than not the acting can be very silly and often wooden. However I thought that these two actors danced on that line beautifully and brought another level of “oh shit, I have no idea where this is going”. Ward looks like he is loving his time at the front, with some juicy dialogue and delivering an eerie as hell heightened performance that screams keep your eye on this guy, he is going places. Loxley straight up steals just about every scene she is in and while I don’t want to give any spoilers, there is one scene in particular (pretty much the centerpiece of the movie, you’ll know it when you see it) where it’s more about what she ISN’T doing that is just so damn captivating. We spend a good chunk of time with these characters before everything starts to go south, so even when they are being mega shit bags, you still feel for them – which is a testament to both the performers and the writing. Again, no spoilers, but when I talk about payoffs there is a heartbreakingly satisfying moment with the Lucy character that this movie works hard for and deserves your praise.

The filmmakers completely knew what they where doing when casting Nadia Lamin as Lauren. I just found her to be very moreish (as in I wanted to see more of her) and one thing I truly appreciated was that her character didn’t just turn bad ass and become the typical invincible heroine type. She was still getting the hurt put on her and you were genuinely left to wonder how does the family come out on the other side of this. Lamin has some really nice dialogue to chew on in her scenes and just takes the performances of everyone around her to the next level. You only have to watch the moment in the attic to see three actors elevating their game but never once trying to out do each other… Delicious. I loved Frank Jakeman but I mean, come o,n he is a seasoned actor at this point so I got what I was expecting there!

Now… our debut directing duo of Adam Leader and Richard Oakes. What I will say is that I knew going in that this flick was gonna look the part. Richard Oakes as a DOP rarely lets you down. The guy knows what he is doing and that shows all over the screen, because this little house your spending the movie in just looks gorgeous and really has that added flavor of old school horror seeping into the modern. I mean there are wide shots in this flick that wouldn’t look out of place on a canvas on your wall (yeah you can explain that to your neighbors, that’s your problem). Adam Leader has written a tight story with some well rounded characters that, although you don’t get an over abundance of character building, you are given just enough to understand the fragility of this family and their situation. Never underestimate the impact of a scene where little is said, descriptive writing is still part of the writers story!

I really enjoyed Hosts and I can see an audience for this one for sure. I have seen some of these actors in other movies as of late but it really feels like this is the one that puts them in your periphery. Lamin, Ward, Jakeman, Loxley and Lee Hunter are all bringing out the best in each other and big props to Oakes and Leader who, for me, show a huge amount of trust in these actors with material that in lesser hands could end up being corny as balls. Check out Hosts… you will not regret it!

**** 4/5

Hosts is out now on digital and VOD, in the US, from Dark Sky Films. The film also screens as part of this years Frightfest Halloween Digital Festival later this month.


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