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 / 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/.