A Christmas dinner goes horribly wrong in this delightful, dark, lean, British horror indie flick that contains a stunning set-piece scene that will have you foaming at the mouth…..
Reviewing a film like HOSTS is quite hard as you really do not want to give much away, because going in cold with give you a much better enjoyment to the chaos that is about to unfold.
This a kind of review though in which I need to go into some mini spoiler territory, so if you want to know as less as possible then let me just jump to what you need the most and YES…..HOSTS is a film that you will very much need in your life, with a startling gruesome set-piece that is one of the year’s best.
For those who are still reading, here we go.
HOSTS may be dressed up as nothing more than yet another film jumping on the “home invasion” genre, but the truth is, its something else, something clever, something much darker and a film that makes British horror stand out and do itself proud.
There is an eerie feel from the off, its brooding tone alongside its striking red title sequence, suggests something evil is coming, even though the film refuses to show its hand straight away, settling us up with a loving couple, Jack (Neal Ward) and Lucy (Samantha Loxley), spending some quality time on Christmas, before they go over their neighbours house for dinner.
The sense of dread builds from the heartfelt exchanges between the two clearly in love and most horror fans will half expect a knock on their door and a stranger outside wearing a mask. The terror does not come from a bored set of teenagers but instead from a surprising place and soon Jack and Lucy are heading off, to the unsuspected family whose father Michael (Frank Jakeman) is warmly ready to greet them.
From here the tension sparkles with glee as Lucy and Jack act oddly with Loxley herself, impressing in a freakish role, thanks to her piecing eyes and blank stare and yet co-directors Adam Leader and Richard Oakes still refuse to up the horror, with the movie again taking its time, with everyone sitting down to eat their food and have the general table chitchat.
Its when the mother (Jennifer K. Preston) gives her family the perfect Christmas present that the film flips out in a staggering and brutal moment that will make even gore hounds look away in disgust. Honestly its one of the best moments of the year in horror, sending shockwaves through your body and unlike HUNTER HUNTER which itself offered up a similar memorable and gruesome scene which was right at the end of the movie, this set-piece sets in motion the second half of the film, in which will have you opened eyed and wondering what will come next.
The superb direction behinds the camera, adds to the growing unease that follows. The traumatised family are left bewildered and hurt as they get separated into rooms as the “invited guests” start to play with their emotions and there is one creepy scene in which the daughter Lauren (Nadia Lamin) believes she has found help, only for the film to turn its creepiness right up a notch with a well known jump scare that feels fresh and brilliant.
The finale does not quite the landed punch that the film thoroughly deserves, but you have this feeling that a limited budget, put paid to most of the grand idea on show, but there is enough happening long before that final shot, that more than makes up for any shortcomings and at least it leaves you wanting more -always a good sign of a great horror flick.
The beauty of HOSTS is that there are no real bad guys as we really do root for these characters, even the ones with blood on their hands. There is a much welcome dark streak to the plot as when the good guys fight back, there is a brief moment of fear and realisation on the face of the bad guys, who are aware of their plight and it gives a sense of unease to the viewer as we really can’t jump for joy, as they are just as much the victims as to those who they’ve hunted through out the lean mean running time.
Much like the similar Await Further Instructions which was released in 2018, HOSTS is a British horror that stands out from among the rest. Its uncompromising with its approach and refuses to play by the standard rules set out by many before and for that one scene alone……you’ll be left with an open mouth, a blank stare and an eerie cold blue glow, as it really does leave a lasting mark.