Hosts, the debut feature from directors Adam Leader and Richard Oakes, takes the home invasion genre and chucks it in a blender. Hints of sci-fi, paranormal phenomenon and biblical references are all thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, while this sounds like it could be brilliant fun, it’s let down horribly by a poor script and illogical character decisions.
We open with Jack (Neal Ward) bringing the train he drives into his local station, then walking home to partner Lucy (Samantha Loxley), a primary school teacher. On the way he meets Michael (Frank Jakeman) who has been hunting pheasants in a Santa costume, because why not? Jack and Lucy are planning to visit Michael and his family, their neighbours, for a Christmas Eve meal, but before they can go, Lauren sees a strange light outside. Jack goes to explore, and when he returns, he finds Lauren on the bed with a bright light emanating from her mouth.
Jack and Lucy arrive at Michael’s home, and he, his wife Cassie (Jennifer K. Preston), and their three children don’t notice that Lucy and Jack are completely silent and emotionless, until the violence starts. Until this point, they’ve all been having bizarrely profound and important conversations, for no apparent reason and regardless of who else is present. Love, parental bonding, cancer, grief… they address it all. These people are supposed to be British and no-one mentions the weather at all. It’s weird.
So, the violence starts, and throughout it all the family does nothing - they don’t fight, make no attempt to escape, and they basically sit around crying at each other until the last 20 minutes when daughter Lauren (Nadia Lamin) suddenly finds some motivation and starts to wildly panic. Until then you’re mostly wondering why no-one is making any attempt to save themselves or each other. This lack of fight gives you little to root for or sympathise with, and as a result most of the violence is funny rather than shocking.
There are some quite effective scenes, but they’re all quite clearly copied from something else. Jordan Peele’s US is mimicked, as the possessed Lucy makes some vague explanation for what is going on (but not really). There are further borrowings from Get Out, Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, and Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation. And there are a couple of bible references thrown in for good measure. These aren’t very clear, so they cut to a picture on the wall in the hope that you’ll get it, which you do, but it’s still unclear as to why it’s in there. There are some barely audible references in a news report about what may be causing these events, but it is so undercooked you’re none the wiser come the end.
Hosts looks great, director Richard Oakes also overaw the cinematography and digital effects, and for what is clearly a low budget film it cannot really be faulted. And so, despite the many many issues, I would be interested to see what Oakes and Leader do next. They are clearly film fans, and had a lot of fun making this, and maybe this will be the prototype for something great in future. There is potential in Hosts and some interesting ideas that need injecting with a bit more originality and development.
Oakes and Leader may benefit from someone else writing the script next time, though perhaps someone who’s had a conversation with a human being rather than a robot. Was it written by a robot? At times it definitely feels like it. Maybe that’s a clue to what was actually going on, maybe it’s all an elaborate Turing test - I really haven't any idea.
Hosts is available to watch on VOD on Sky Store, iTunes and Amazon.