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Review: Hosts (2020)

It’s not even Halloween, and we have a Christmas themed bloodbath on our hands. Hosts, directed by Adam Leader and Richard Oakes from a script by Leader, uses holiday get-togethers, possession, and home invasion to create one of the best seasonal horrors we’ve had in a while.

Jack (Neal Ward, A Warning to the Curious) and Lucy (Samantha Loxley) are a happy, loving young couple. They’re going to have dinner with their neighbours Michael (Frank Jakeman, Shed of the Dead, Nest of Vampires) and his wife Cassie (Jennifer K. Preston, Tribal Get Out Alive, Creep Lodge). Their grown kids Eric (Lee Hunter, Homeless Ashes) and Lauren (Nadia Lamin, Nefarious) along with youngster Ben (Buddy Skelton) are there as well.

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But there’s something they don’t know. As they’re hosting their neighbours, their neighbours are hosting something a lot less friendly.

Hosts starts off nicely enough. We get to see Jack and Lucy together just long enough to come to like them before they get possessed. The possession itself is a nice exercise in creepiness. Lucy thinks she sees something out in the dark back yard and Jack goes to look…

We then get a similar introduction to Michael and his family. And again the script had me genuinely liking them. And that sets Hosts apart from so many other films like it. It wasn’t just a matter of siding with the “good guys” or “bad guys”, I cared about the characters and their fates. Which made some of the scenes a bit hard to watch.

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That violence, I should add is done via practical effects. Kate Griffiths (Winterskin, Vampire Virus) pulls off some impressive work on what had to have been a limited budget. The killings are well set up and shot for maximum impact. The first killing is a particular “Holy Shit!” moment and sets the tone for the rest of the film. It’s a scene that will stay in your head for a while.

One thing I do wish though was that Hosts had made just what was doing the possessing a little clearer. There’s the obvious conclusion that it’s something demonic. A couple of scenes involving religious artwork seems to back that up. But several other possible explanations are hinted at, including strange electrical phenomena related to fracking or Pagan rituals. The most interesting involving the reason for the dinner, and a connection between Jack and Michael. But the later appearance of other possessed would seem to rule that one out.

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Whatever they are though, they gave me the creeps with their glowing-eyed, blank stares and cold, emotionless voices. Like sadistic versions of the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Children of the Damned all grown up. Kudos to Ward and Loxely who, despite the lack of outward emotions, make it clear their characters are enjoying what they’re doing.

Loaded with blood and scares, Hosts is an early Christmas present for horror fans. It’s available to stream and on DVD in North America from Dark Sky Films who also released another British Christmas film, Await Further Instructions which has several similarities to, (and differences from), this film. They’d make a great Christmas Eve double feature. You can check Hosts’ Facebook page for UK and other release plans.

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