11th Oct2020

Grimmfest 2020: ‘An Ideal Host’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Nadia Collins, Evan Williams, Naomi Brockwell, St John Cowcher, Mary Soudi, Daniel Buckle, Tristan McInnes, Andrea Gibbs, Sam Longley | Written by Tyler Jacob Jones | Directed by Robert Woods

As you may or may not know, I’m a huge fan cinema from down under, be it New Zealand or, as in this case, Australia. There’s just something so appealing – to me at least – about how films from that part of the world mix humour and horror to such tremendous effect. There’s nothing quite like an Ozploitation horror comedy: never too horrific, never too funny and oftentimes bordering on the absurd WITHOUT ever feeling like it.

An Ideal Host tells the story of Liz and Jackson, a middle-class couple who seemingly want to show their best side an the dinner party they’re hosting – fixating on giving the best presentation of the home, their food and even Jackson’s wedding proposal. Everything is timed to perfection and practised until their are no faults. None. This dinner party has to be PERFECT. Only its not. First of all Daisy, the drunk black sheep of this particular group of friends shows up but she’s not the only one causing chaos at this soiree.

There’s clearly an influence from the likes of Peter Jackson at work here, with An Ideal Host having that same ridiculous, some might say over the top, dark humour that marked Bad Taste out as such a unique piece of genre cinema. From the absurd way Liz and Jackson plan out their meal to the absurd EXTRA guests that show up unannounced, it’s Bad Taste with which An Ideal Host shares a lot in common – with both films essentially telling the story of an alien invasion.

However, imagine the paranoia of John Carpenter’s The Thing transposed to the hot outback of Australia, complete with a series of characters who aren’t sure who is human and who is an alien host and you have An Ideal Host (titular pun I’m sure intended) in a nutshell. Only The Thing never had the absurdist comedy, the black streak of humour, or a heroine quite like Nadia Collins’ Liz.

It also never had a dinner party like this. With a script that starts off weird (who the hell practices a wedding proposal to impress their friends?), and gets more and more absurd, more maniacal as the film progresses – character flaws coming to the fore, tensions flaring and arguments raging. And that’s even BEFORE the alien infestation breaks out! When that is revealed, when the guests realise that some of the party are not quite human. Well then the shit hits the proverbial fan and the divides of the dinner party REALLY explodes…. Into bitter arguments, violence, and fight for survival.

Yet for all that An Ideal Host never loses its humour. When the blood flows so do the laughs; when the violence erupts, it’s often with a streak of dark humour. And when Liz is left all alone, all her dinner guests dead, she heads back to her home to set up the dinner party again… after all she has to be the ideal host. Even if that means tooling up with as many guns and weapons as possible!

*** 3/5

An Ideal Host screened as part of this years Grimmfest virtual festival on Friday October 9th.

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