Since Donald Sutherland pointed his finger and wailed in the closing credits of 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers I’ve loved the whole alien assimilation scene. Currently screening as part of the 2021 Sydney Underground Film Festival comes an Australian voice to the subgenre in An Ideal Host. Channeling that voice is Robert Woods in his directorial feature debut, who fires off on all cylinders with that unique Australian humour, pulling in the words from screenwriter Tyler Jacob Jones and bringing them to life.
Leading what appears to be an idyllic life, Liz (Nadia Collins) and Jackson (Evan Williams)as they set themselves up in a country town with their sweeping views of a serene yet rugged landscape (and cows).
There’s a little more going on beneath the surface as Liz seeks to have everything perfect and in place ahead of a dinner party for the close friends, They’ve even rehearsed a wedding proposal to be performed before their guests during the course of the evening. And yet, you constantly question Jackson’s true motives.
All of which comes secondary when an old friend, Daisy (Naomi Brockwell) invites herself along to the occasion with the threat of destroying the tranquility with her wild and unpredictable ways. Daisy would prove to be the last of Liz’s problems however, when further unexpected visitors make their presence known and start to take control of the human bodies and a plan to take over the town and beyond.
What strikes you about this film though besides the comedy beats is the special effects on show, a testament to Woods vision, when the tentacled creatures make their presence felt. The beauty on display though is the way that Woods slowly dials this up through to a carnage-filled conclusion, leaving you grimacing with glee. You can tell that he has honed his craft with an energy that entertains and delights the audience.
Director Robert Woods proves again that Australia has a distinctive voice when it comes to horror. His blend of humour, effects and narrative shine through to the fore.
The beats when hit are strong and effective which is orchestrated with precision.
An Ideal Host surprises through the shifts and tones which also proves that Woods can draw you into the narrative before unleashing a gritty, and savagely satisfying end.
- Saul Muerte