Hosts follows a family that unwittingly invites their now-possessed neighbors into their home for a holiday dinner, only to fall victim to the entities' vicious delights.
While watching Hosts, I hadn't seen this much potential in a [seemingly] microbudget horror film since Absentia. Absentia is the bar I have set for all horror films scraping by with a minimal budget (scraping so closely to the bottom of the proverbial barrel that it's inescapably apparent on screen). And no microbudget film has come close to the success of Absentia in my eyes. And while Hosts started off with the potential to match Absentia's success, it was eventual letdown.
Hosts is a veritable smorgasbord of squandered potential. Right from the beginning I was able to get my mind properly channeled for a low-budget flick. Once the director and actors started to warm up (much like the momentum Absentia begins to build), I was able to get involved in the plot. Once we cut to the dinner party, I'm on board for where things are going. But what I was unprepared for was not the [cult-status eligible] infamous dinner scene, but what followed...a drab, nonsensical, supernatural slasher-verging-on-psychological-torture-porn that doesn't come close to matching its catalyzing scene's intensity in the weak hour that proceeds it.
There are moments I certainly enjoyed or appreciated...but the most frustrating part is how none of these scenes or elements ever add up to anything substantial. The dinner scene (which is fantastically shot and executed considering the budget) sets us up for a gory romp, but nothing remotely like the abrupt violence happens again, at least not with the same care or brutality. Links are made between the demons possessing the couple and the family under siege, but it equates to nothing in the end. There's a scene in the attic that appears to be laying on some more subplot, but it also inevitably feels inconsequential to what follows. At that dinner scene, the film takes a sharp turn at 90mph, but the turn is into a 10mph School Zone, and now we're just coasting slowly through crosswalks and stop signs.
The acting is abysmal, even in its best moments. And that is normally excusable in films of this financial depth (or lack thereof), but there has to be enough substance to counterbalance it, either in a well-conceived story or the up-and-coming skills of the director shining through. Neither of these are prevalent throughout, leaving me utterly stunned when I realized, about an hour and twenty minutes into the film, that I saw the best scene of the movie an hour ago and the film essentially tricked me into continuing to watch thinking I could get more out of it.
I could say that the film tried too hard to be something it wasn't, but I think it just didn't try hard enough to be something it was. It couldn't focus. The film wanted to be layered and dramatic, but it lacked the necessary acting and a cohesive script to carry it out. It's at its best embracing the chaos of its scenario, and at its worst when trying to mix in subplots, twists, and symbolism. This is the kind of film that you watch a second time and find more to dislike rather than more to enjoy. Which is a shame, because it shows glimpses of being Absentia-level special, but the glimpses quickly fade into the oblivion that is the rest of this movie.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 9/10 Horror Quality: 5/10 Film Quality: 2/10