Review: ‘Hosts,’ starring Neal Ward, Nadia Lamin, Frank Jakeman, Samantha Loxley, Buddy Skelton, Lee Hunter and Jennifer K. Preston

October 2, 2020

by Carla Hay

Neal Ward and Nadia Lamin in “Hosts” (Photo courtesy of Dark Sky Films)

“Hosts”

Directed by Adam Leader and Richard Oakes

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed rural town in England, the horror flick “Hosts” has an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A family invites two guests over for a Christmas Eve dinner, and the guests go on a bloody rampage. 

Culture Audience: “Hosts” will appeal primarily to people who like suspenseful slasher flicks with a touch of science fiction.

Samantha Loxley in “Hosts” (Photo courtesy of Dark Sky Films)

The horror movie “Hosts” might not have much of an original concept (people getting assaulted and possibly murdered in their home), but the movie succeeds in bringing plenty of chilling and terrifying moments that are sure to thrill horror fans who like to see intense and gruesome conflicts between good and evil. “Hosts” is the feature-film debut of writer/director duo Adam Leader and Richard Oakes, who show that they have impressive talent in telling an effective horror story on a limited budget and a small number of people in the cast.

The story of “Hosts” essentially revolves around seven characters. Jack (played by Neal Ward), who is in his late 20s or early 30s, has just arrived by train in an unnamed area that looks like it’s in the English countryside. He’s warmly greeted in an open field by middle-aged Michael (played by Frank Jakeman), who has recently gone hunting, because he has some dead pheasants hanging over his shoulder.

It’s Christmas Eve. Jack and his younger girlfriend Lucy (played by Samantha Loxley), who lives near Michael, have been invited over to Michael’s home to have dinner with Michael and his family. Michael’s wife Cassie (played by Jennifer K. Preston) is preparing the meal in the kitchen. They have a happy and loving marriage, based on the gently teasing banter and public displays of affection that they have before all hell breaks loose.

The other people in Michael and Cassie’s immediate family who are at the dinner are their three children. Eric (played by Lee Hunter) and Lauren (played by Nadia Lamin) are in their 20s and are single. Youngest child Ben (played by Buddy Skelton) is about 11 or 12 years old.

The siblings have a mostly congenial relationship with each other, but they have small annoyances that get on each other’s nerves. Lauren (who is at the family home for a Christmas visit) doesn’t want to make a serious commitment to her boyfriend Matt, so Eric teases her about her not wanting to settle down. Before dinner, Ben and Lauren are playing checkers in his room, and Lauren thinks Ben is being a little bit of a brat.

When Jack and Lucy arrive for dinner, something seems “off” about the way they are acting. They act emotionally disconnected, almost as if they’re in a zombie state of mind. That’s because when Jack and Lucy were at her place, something happened that caused them to not be themselves. It’s all explained in the movie.

Whatever has taken over Jack’s and Lucy’s minds and bodies, it causes them to go on a vicious and bloody rampage in the house. Their attack is a complete shock to the family, who only knew Jack and Lucy as a loving couple. And during this terrifying ordeal, some family secrets are revealed.

All of the actors do a very good job in their roles, but Loxley (as the possessed Lucy) stands out as the more horrific of the two murderers. One of the creepiest parts of the movie is a monologue that Lucy whispers that drops hints about the motivation for this killing spree. The way that Loxley delivers these lines can be considered even scarier than some of the bloody assaults because it’s about the psychological horror of what’s going in her twisted mind.

The cinematography, visual effects and music of “Hosts” are all especially effective in telling this story. And the writing and directing of this film are much better than the average horror flick. “Hosts” isn’t the kind of movie that’s revolutionary, because it sticks to a lot of familiar tropes that have been seen and done many times before in horror movies. But it does those tropes so well that it’s going to make people feel very tense and unsettled during the most disturbing and suspenseful scenes.

Dark Sky Films released “Hosts” on digital and VOD on October 2, 2020.