It’s fresh roasted pheasant for Christmas dinner at the Henderson household, father Michael having dressed as Santa for the hunt and mother Cassie preparing the meal, Lauren and Ben upstairs playing games and Eric about the house somewhere, and due over later are neighbours Lucy and Jack, both of them acting a bit off when they arrive, but the Hendersons are dutiful hosts.
Their door always open to their friends, both Lauren and Jack have been oddly tactile since their arrival yet the conversation is stilted, the guests disinterested in the seasonal celebrations and more concerned with objects such as Michael’s shotgun, as if they know their function but have difficulty comprehending their purpose.
The evening meal taking an unexpected direction, Cassie ends up flat out after her efforts in the kitchen and Lucy and Jack’s deviation from festive norms shocks and surprises the Hendersons as they realise that rather than party games their guests intend to explore the limits of their hosts’ tolerance under extreme duress.
Its world premiere at FrightFest, Hosts is described as a science fiction thriller, the feature debut of directors Adam Leader and Richard Oakes who also wrote the script which is high on bloodshed and awkward family dynamics but low on believable characters or situations, the Henderson’s gawking rather than intervening and Lauren calling her boyfriend instead of the police.
The emphasis on torture rather than creating a complex storyline, the dialogue is flat and the premise underdeveloped, a minimalist home invasion movie tied to a single location with aliens inexplicably serving as the catalyst, raising more questions than it answers, first among them why any intelligence with the means to travel to another planet would think suffering was the best way to understand another species?
With Samantha Loxley and Neal Ward as the hosts to the luminous beings of energy who have descended from the winter sky, Frank Jakeman and Jennifer K Preston lead a family who behave like strangers with each other, their home filled with out-of-place religious images of sacrifice which serve no function in the narrative despite the parallels which, if explored, could have given the film another layer beyond skin deep.