[Review] An Ideal Host [FilmQuest]: Australian Genre-Bender Brings an Invasion of Laughs and Chills

The Australian feature An Ideal Host (2020) is a horror/science fiction/comedy hybrid that delivers on all three fronts. 

Liz (Nadia Collins) and Jackson (Evan Williams) are planning the ideal dinner party at which Jackson will “spontaneously” propose to Liz — something that the couple has rehearsed well — surprising all the guests. We all know how the best laid plans can go, especially in a genre film, and the couple’s perfectly timed schedule certainly does go awry when some unexpected visitors show up: Liz’s long-time frenemy Daisy (Naomi Brockwell) and ill-intentioned cosmic entities. To give away more would be unfairly going into spoiler territory, as viewers should be as confounded as Liz regarding certain events that change not only her evening plans but her whole carefully calculated world. 

Tyler Jacob Jones’ clever screenplay goes from a sharp comedy of manners to a gory sci-fi–horror romp and plays wonderfully with well-worn tropes, such as showdowns of paranoia being exacerbated by relationships ranging from friendships to intimate.

Director Robert Woods juggles all of the film’s elements marvelously. The ensemble cast members work together beautifully, including Collins giving a super turn as a woman who goes from a careful planner to someone who must improvise as she fights for her life; Brockwell investing her character with a perfectly acerbic performance; Williams taking his character from relaxed and caring to smarmy, arrogant, and sinister; Tristan McInnes providing a hilarious turn as a gay first date; and Mary Soudi providing a highly amusing performance as an attention seeker who gets ignored often. 

An Ideal Host is proof that a good screenplay and story, solid direction, and all-in performances — along with well-rendered practical effects — can help an independent film succeed despite budgetary limitations.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

An Ideal Host screens as part of FilmQuest, which runs October 29–November 6, 2021 in Provo, Utah, with a virtual version from October 29–November 14. For more information, visit http://www.filmquestfest.com/.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.