HOSTS movie poster | ©2020 Dark Sky Films

HOSTS movie poster | ©2020 Dark Sky Films

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Neal Ward, Samantha Loxley, Frank Jakeman, Nadia Lamin, Lee Hunter, Jennifer Preston, Buddy Skelton
Writer: Adam Leader, story by Adam Leader & Richard Oakes
Directors: Adam Leader & Richard Oakes
Distributor: Dark Sky Films
Release Date: October 2, 2020

HOSTS, not to be confused with the July 2020 release HOST (or Bong Joon-ho’s THE HOST, or any of the other more than 450 films with similar titles) is a low-budget British horror film. The title is actually clever, as HOSTS refers both to the Henderson family, who’ve invited their neighbors over for Christmas supper, and the neighbors, who are hosts to demonic possession.

Jack (Neal Ward) is a railway worker and Lucy (Samantha Loxley) is a schoolteacher. The pair are happy, in love, and getting ready to visit the Hendersons when Lucy sees some odd lights in the garden. A news report on the TV suggests that local fracking activity has created some alarming side effects.

The Henderson family consists of jolly patriarch Michael (Frank Jakeman), his affectionate wife Cassie (Jennifer Preston), their elder son Eric (Lee Hunter) and daughter Lauren (Nadia Lamin), both visiting for the holidays, and younger son Ben (Buddy Skelton), who still lives at home.

It must be said that none of the Hendersons are tremendously observant. Granted, Lauren has some romantic issues, and Michael and Cassie are a little preoccupied by another matter, but nobody seems to notice how strange Jack and Lucy act when they show up. Things get very bloody, very fast, and the survivors are taken hostage.

Directors Adam Leader & Richard Oakes wrote the story for HOSTS together, with Leader writing the screenplay and Oakes serving as director of photography. The movie is well shot, has some nice production design moments. For those who appreciate the art of it, the gore is plentiful and well-done.

Also, the notion of somebody literally drilling into Hell and reaping the consequences of doing so is a perfectly sound horror premise, even if it’s not exactly a new one.

However, the filmmakers miscalculate both their characters and their metaphors. What’s meant to be playful sibling teasing comes off as unpleasant; people sometimes fail to exercise rudimentary common sense; what seems intended as an emotional scene quickly becomes more repetitive than affecting.

When one of the demons cryptically explains what’s going on, it doesn’t match up with either mythology we’ve been given or the action we’re seeing. There’s a big revelation that we learn late in the running time that seems intended to be significant, but it’s coincidental rather than causal. It adds up to a sense that the filmmakers have something on their minds, but don’t articulate it in a way that’s readily accessible to outsiders.

There’s a torture-porn-light feel to the material that may or may not appeal to fans of that subgenre. For others, well before we reach the climax, it’s easy to lose patience with HOSTS’s poorly-made puzzles. Admittedly, the final image is striking.

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