FilmQuest Review: ‘An Ideal Host’ is a Darkly Funny, Disgusting, and Delightful Alien Invasion Story
Director Robert Woods' alien invasion film works a remarkable amount of magic with its low budget.
An Ideal Host is summarized as follows: “Liz just wants to host the perfect dinner party, but an unexpected guest sends the evening into chaos, with potentially apocalyptic consequences.” While that is a fun and intriguing description of this movie, it doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
The film is offbeat from the beginning and it is easy to get stuck in the humor, surface-level friendships, and comical insecurities of the people who claim to be friends meeting for this dinner party… so easy that you almost forget that you’re waiting on something big to happen, and are caught off guard when, about a third of the way through, the movie’s title takes on a double meaning. Dinner gets interrupted by aliens trying to find hosts on their quest to take over the planet. The unexpected guests are starting with this dinner party and the nearby town before taking over the globe. This is when Tyler Jacob Jones’ script takes An Ideal Host into darker, bloodier territory, while somehow maintaining its delightfully charming tone.
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As the dinner party begins to descend into chaos, we have what looks like a continuous shot that includes the whole party. I had to watch this scene three times to truly capture how in the moment every actor is, and what fun business each character is doing, outside of what should be the main focus of the moment. The camera makes a few deliberate choices to pan in and out, but they are not intrusive, and made me feel like I was a fly on the wall or an unseen guest watching this all go down in the dining and living area. It helped raise the tension to make sure it wasn’t getting lost amidst all of the comedic bits happening. Yes, An Ideal Host is an indie film, but there is so much camera magic happening at this moment that it made me want to see what director Robert Woods and crew could do with more money. This chaotic moment stands out as the crown jewel of a film whose budget is the only obstacle in the way of achieving near perfection.
While the whole cast works as a brilliant ensemble, Nadia Collins’ portrayal of Liz is excellent. She is that acquaintance we all have, who plans every second of their life and can only maintain surface-level relationships. She is the annoying, uptight host that we all love to hate, but find ourselves rooting for as she uses her skillset to outsmart the aliens invading her home. Another performance worth highlighting is Mary Soudi as Mara. Mara is possibly the most insecure person at the party, and constantly brings up her trip to Bali every other sentence; she’s more concerned about being left out of anything than whatever is happening with the aliens.
Constantly delightful and at times disgusting, An Ideal Host is an unexpected ride that I cannot wait to get onto again.
An Ideal Host had its regional premiere as part of FilmQuest 2021‘s Virtual Festival.
An Ideal Host is more fun than it has any right to be. If you need to scratch a sci-fi comedy itch, this is the film to watch.