Following his review of the film, Hugh sat down to chat with the cast and crew of British indie horror Hosts, which made its UK premiere at the Arrow London FrightFest on Saturday.
**warning: some spoilers**
First of all folks, thanks for giving us some of your time.
Richard Oakes (Writer / Director) – Not a problem mate.
Adam Leader (Writer / Director) – Yeah, no worries man.
I have to start off by saying, this film caught me completely off guard. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting.
Richard – Yeah, I think it does help to go into it blind and not really knowing what’s coming.
Adam – What kind of film were you expecting? Had you seen the trailer?
Actually no, when I got the chance to see it early I decided just to go in knowing as little as possible. I knew it was a home invasion story, but apart from that nothing!
Adam – Haha, yeah it certainly has elements of that style of film, but there’s a lot more going on.
How did you come up with the idea for the film?
Adam – We are both into horror, but Rich kind of brings the home invasion / psychological thriller mix into the cake of inspiration. I grew up watching more supernatural type films, I’m not particularly a fan of slasher films. But Rich and I mixed those two ideas together to come up with Hosts.
Richard – Yeah there are a lot of little homages sprinkled into the cake, as it were, throughout the film!
2020 has been ‘a bit of a year’ to put it mildly. So, I wanted to just congratulate you guys on being able to get me to utter my first “Fucking Hell” of the year while watching a film.
Neal Ward (Jack) – YES! (laughs)
There are very few films that have gotten that sort of visceral reaction out of me. Every second of the dinner table scene building up to the big moment is filled with dread and tension. Samantha, what was that scene like to film?
Samantha Loxley (Lucy) – Oh it was lovely (laughs). The thing is, it’s quite a blunt scene! I think when you get a character like her who isn’t quite human, its just so much fun. It really scared me at time, more when I left the set actually. When we were filming it, we were in Rich’s house. And down the hallway was the kitchen that sort of became the green room.
Anyway, there was a big TV in there showing the playback of that scene in reverse while the guys were looking at it. And I walked into the room and saw it for the first time, and I think I just shrieked and ran into the door! I was just trying to get away from it and after a little while I was like “Oh right, I did that!”
I’m quite bad with horror films, but this was fun. Is it ok to say that? (laughs)
Richard – Yeah, Sam is like the nicest person in the world, you wouldn’t really see that side of her.
Adam – I think that’s what shocked us though. It was the first time we had met Sam in person, and me and Rich were like “Aw she’s so lovely, this is gonna be great” and then she did that scene and we were just looking at each other like…. “whoooa” (laughs). I think everyone was just shocked!
We were standing behind the monitor watching Sam’s face and her body language in the build up to THAT bit, and we were just looking at each other like “LOOK!” “I KNOW!” (laughs).
The film, for the first 20 minutes, is very reserved. It’s a nice slow build to the first big moment, and then the madness afterwards is just non-stop. Nadia, how was that to maintain that sort of high energy terror and hysteria throughout the shoot?
Nadia Lamin (Lauren) – We didn’t film chronologically, so the first thing I did was the dinner table scene. That scene is in two halves and doing the first scene with the family and the banter and the nonsense was done first, and then we had to cut and reset for what came next! It was quite intense, and to be on that level of believability where it makes emotional sense and you aren’t just crying for the sake of crying, is tough. I’m not going to lie, it is tough. It can be exhausting.
But what was lovely was the juxtaposition after we called cut! You could really have a bit of a laugh and relax a little on set, it was tough but really rewarding to get through that scene and then have Rich and Adam be there to tell you that you did well and you got it. It was really cool.
Neal, you get to play the part of one of the film’s main villains. It looked like you were having a lot of fun. How did you find moving your performance from the very naturalistic style that we see at the start of the film to the more unhinged and deranged character in the latter half?
Neal – It’s an actor’s dream to play these two characters in one film. I mean, it’s double the work, but very much feels like double the reward in terms of what you get from it. I don’t use any traditional methods of acting, but the closest thing I associated it with is what Tom Hardy did with Legend where he played two characters.
One character is pretty much just myself, with a couple of tweaks here and there, while the other is just a high end version / caricature of what an evil version of myself would be like. Because I’m not like that in real life….
Neal – (laughs) Well exactly! So, I’m more like the Jack of the first twenty minutes. And there is no real interaction between my character and Lucy’s after that, I’m sort of just throwing things at Nadia or the other characters, so its tough to work against yourself. You need to say a lot of things that need to make sense to the character if not the victim, so I played a lot with rhythm and beats and just general mental-ness (laughs) to get that unhinged feel to it. Adding in little grins and smirks that wouldn’t work for a normal person, but really bring the character to life.
It was a challenge but working with that cast was a pleasure because they give so much and create such meaty, fleshed out characters.
When it came to casting and putting the film together, how difficult was that?
Richard – Nadia and Neal were on pretty much since the moment we started because we’ve been friends with them for years. And we had worked together on other projects, Neal on a couple of films and Nadia in a short I did. Nadia actually helped with another script that we had been working on, but the scale of that is pretty huge. That’s why we decided on something a little bit smaller for our first film. So, Adam came up with the idea for Hosts off an experience that he had before.
We kind of went into it knowing we wanted to write something for these guys, and Neal is such a bad-ass (laughs) that we knew we had our bad guy. And Nadia is just like a shower. (laughs)
Nadia – (laughs) It’s true.
Richard – So much crying! So we kind of wrote it from there. But the others, like Frank Jakeman, I had worked with in the past and he had done something with Adam too, so we got him in. I actually met Frank at a showing for another film and he was keen to be a part of something we were doing. Lee (Hunter) I had worked with before and was impressed with him.
We got Sam in at last minute because someone else had pulled out late on. I think Sam came on board the day before the shoot, and had to learn the script in a day and she completely smashed it. And when she had to switch to the psychopath-Lucy, she absolutely blew us all away with her performance. The other person pulling out turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.
Neal -That woman is kicking herself now though! (laughs)
Adam – Jennifer (K Preston) was hard to cast, the actress who played Cassie. We auditioned 11 or 13 people for that part and it was tough. When Jennifer sent her tape in, Rich and I were like ‘Sorry Ladies!’ because she was just so good.
Samantha – She was just so lovely!
Neal – It’s a shame what happened to her…..
Richard – (laughs) It just made it so much more satisfying!
Adam – In terms of getting an idea for the film, I was just sitting at home with my ex a couple of years ago. And she said that she saw a weird blue orb just outside the window at the bottom left of the window. So I went to check it out, a little freaked out, so I took a knife with me from the kitchen.
I didn’t find anything, but when I came back inside I was still a little shaken. And I remember thinking that this would be a cool idea to open a film. So, I got on the phone to Rich and he said “Yeah lets do it!” We spent the whole night storyboarding a rough structure of the scenes we would want to do in the film.
I went away and did the first draft of the script, and we developed it over the next few months, until finally here we are today…. Still alive (laughs).
How was working with the practical effects in the film?
Samantha – STICKY! (laughs)
Neal – I didn’t get covered in anything, so I’m alright! I had a breeze of a shoot it was great!
Samantha – Yeah, and you had a really nice outfit as well! How is that fair?
Nadia – It was so warm as well.
Samantha – It really was. Nadia and I both had sort of medium long brown curly hair, and the gore is essentially red maple syrup, which is fine because its sticky but it doesn’t smell. But when it dries in that heat, and someone calls you and you turn your head, it sort of tears apart on your neck! (laughs) It was horrible!
Nadia – It’s so true. At the end of the day, as you can imagine, I was just totally covered! And there were flies sticking to me!
Samantha – You get creases where you never knew you had creases!
Nadia – Eamon, who was the runner on set, had just got this new car, and the interior seats are white leather. So, he’s driving me home at the end of the day and I get into his car having an anxiety attack because I’m about to cake his new car in blood.
When you left the room Neal, I remember thinking ‘Well at least that nice coat won’t get messy’
Neal – (laughs) It is a great coat.
Richard – I think there was only one day where you got covered in blood.
Neal – Yeah, but there was a day where I was covered in my own blood and not just the sticky stuff.
What happened there?
Neal – There’s a scene where I’m using a twelve-inch knife in the film…
I remember it well.
Neal – Well that knife ended up in my leg (laughs). It was quite early in the morning and we were all hyped up on adrenaline. We had a prosthetic torso as well as the person I was using the knife on. So, for the scene where the person was there, we just had the knife handle with a fake blade (foam), so I was stabbing really quickly into the torso. But when it came to flipping round and using the real knife and the fake torso, trying to match that speed was tough. It makes a great sound as it hits the torso, but it can be tough going through the ‘body’. So, we did it from a few angles, a couple of different takes, and the sweat was just pouring off me and I was stabbing so quickly and then suddenly “Aaaargh! It’s in my leg! It’s in my leg!”
Adam came in and held my hand while I was bleeding out on the floor (laughs) He got me to A&E and sat with me for a few hours. In the end I needed one stitch! (laughs). But there is a scar! And it’s a reminder of the wonderful time on set (laughs).
Samantha – We all got a picture of it on the group chat and it was this diagonal cut above the knee. People were putting eyes and a little cap on it (laughs). Neal came back to where we were staying and I was just prodding him on the leg “Alright buddy, how’s it going?!” (laughs)
Richard – Yeah, Neal provided the blood and sweat while Nadia provided the tears (laughs)
Avoiding specifics, the film ends on a note where there very much could be more to come. Is that something you would be interested in down the road?
Adam – I think, generally speaking, we aren’t really sequel people.
Samantha – Apart from Hosts 2 of course (laughs). I mean, haven’t we already signed up for the next one?
Neal – Oh yeah, those contracts are already sorted out (laughs)
Adam – (laughs) I think Rich and I aren’t really sequel people, which isn’t what these guys want to hear!
Samantha – I tried guys, sorry!
Richard – If someone wants to give us a pay packet for the rights to it then that’s cool (laughs).
Adam – It would all depend. I mean, if it really blows up and there was a demand for a sequel and time allowed it, then it might be something that we would look at. If there was an idea that worked, I wouldn’t say no. But only if there was a cool story to tell and not just do something for the sake of it.
Samantha – What if it became a ride at Thorpe Park? (laughs)
Richard – I think, on a surface level, it makes sense to have a sequel. But there is a lot of figurative and allegorical levels to the film. There are many layers; it can be just a slasher for people who want that, but there is depth too if you want to look for it. Its all about the family, and that particular family, and I don’t think that would carry over well to a sequel.
And I think doing a sequel without the allegorical stuff just wouldn’t work as well. It’s like people who are asking for a sequel to Midsommar, I just don’t think it works.
Neal – It could be a sequel set in a parallel universe where Nadia and Frank are possessed! And its remade by Rob Zombie…
I think that’s a good attitude to it. One of the things that I enjoyed about the film was the fact that there is a lot going on beneath the violence and horror. There’s a purposeful ambiguity which the film makes you work for that might not work in a sequel. I’m sorry to the cast for saying that…
Neal – It’s alright mate, a lot of us are dead anyway (laughs). I wanted them to do a shot at the end of the film where they cut back to the house and I’m not there, just to keep me in the mix for a sequel. I kept moving slightly when I was lying there… (laughs)
Richard – Neal was lingering around during the edit trying to change it, I had to put him on freeze-frame to keep him still (laughs). Sorry Neal!
Neal – Well I’ve written it into my contract that I need to be in any sequel, I don’t know if you guys checked that? Even if I’m just a stuffed animal on the wall.
Sounds like you’ve just talked the sequel back to life here guys.
Neal – I have (laughs)
Nadia, you take on the iconic part of the ‘final girl’ which has become a true horror movie staple. Are you a fan of horror films?
Nadia – I was never really into horror. I’m sorry to say that to any horror fans who might expect me to love them, but I was never a big fan. But then my first role in a feature film was a horror film… and then my next was a horror film…. And now this one is a horror film! I don’t know what it is about me that shouts Scream Queen, maybe it’s the way I cry all the time? (laughs)
Richard – I’ve been trying to get you into them though.
Nadia – He has! We’ve been watching a horror movie every night. I’ve been isolating here at Rich’s place as there are vulnerable people in my house. I watched Hereditary, and I loved it. It freaked me out!
Samantha – You could watch it again and again couldn’t you?
Nadia – Absolutely. I know its childish, but I need to leave the bedside light on now.
Neal – Remember to check I’m not under the bed (laughs)
Nadia – My genre is psychological thriller. But Hosts kinds falls into that more meaty-horror film that isn’t just a slasher for the sake of it.
Neal – You could be the next Jamie Lee Curtis!
Nadia – Definitely if there’s a Hosts 2!
Neal – We can just come back every year and do the same thing but just with a little more budget every time (laughs).
Hosts is set at Christmas time, it’s very much a Christmas movie. Do you imagine it being watched just after A Muppets Christmas Carol and Elf?
Samantha – I know that my Mum can’t wait to see it (laughs)
Richard – I think I would leave that up to you (laughs)
I’ll spread the good word to as many people as I can. I might tell my Mum and Dad to avoid it…
Richard – Mate I can’t get MY Mum or Dad to watch it (laughs). But then my Mum is dead…
Adam – (laughing) I knew you were going to say that!
Richard – (laughs)
That was a hammer blow to the interview there Richard!
Neal – Well, he’s had a couple of beers…
One of the things we ask everyone we speak to is for their favourite horror films
Neal – I’m going first this time.
Last time we did this everyone kept taking my films and I had to keep changing! I’m not having that again. Mine is The Thing. It gets better every time I see it, and the special effects and lack of CGI are amazing. The sense of terror and confusion is brilliant. It’s a masterful film.
Samantha – I’m a fan of horror, but they really do affect me. I find I have to watch something like Despicable Me afterwards before I go to bed! The one that stuck with me is Funny Games. It was originally an Austrian film, and it got remade by an American studio. Its one of the rare occasions where it still works really well. And when I see the reviews of Hosts and people mention it I’m like “That’s my film Bitch!” (laughs)
Adam – It’s a tough one, but because I’ve seen this nine times already I feel like I should pick another one. But it would have been Hereditary. Something else that’s recent that I’ve seen all the way through twice is The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. That made me cry my eyes out, the story is so powerful and its scary and supernatural, but its like a family drama told on the platform of horror. It’s a total mindfuck.
The Exorcist is probably my favourite film of all time (pulls up t-shirt sleeve to reveal Pazuzu tattoo).
That is both tremendous and horrifying (laughs).
Richard – Not to offend people but horror is not my go to genre. I’m more like Nadia in that I like psychological thrillers, stuff like Se7en. In terms of horror Alien, The Thing, The Hills Have Eyes remake, The Blob, Midsommar, Mother! There’s too many! A lot of remakes strangely, like The Evil Dead remake is great.
Nadia – Is that the one we’re watching next?
Richard – Yeah
Samantha – (laughs) Aw Nadia your poor face….
Neal – You’re going to be broken, Nadia, by the time you go home.
Nadia – No!! I’m the Final Girl!!!!
Samantha – You know, we watched Toy Story 3 and I think that’s the scariest film Adam had seen in years!
Adam – I cried my eyes out!
I think that it fair. Toy Story 3 is an emotional rollercoaster.
Adam – It totally killed me man.
Samantha – It’s scarier than Midsommar.
Neal – It still doesn’t beat the first twenty minutes of UP. I am DONE after that!
What about you Nadia?
Nadia – I don’t know if you would class this as a horror, but I loved Hide and Seek with Robert De Niro and Dakota Fanning. I loved that film, and I think you have five different endings on the DVD so I like that you have alternate ways it can play out.
Another film that I loved but I haven’t watched as much is The Orphanage by J.A Bayona. It is a stunning film visually, and it was produced by Guillermo del Toro. It’s an insane film.
That’s a fantastic choice. That’s a film that is as upsetting as it is scary, it really stays with you after you’ve seen it.
Nadia – You’re right, I think I saw it when it came out in 2007 and I’ve never forgotten some of the imagery.
So, what else is coming up for you guys?
Richard – You’ll probably find us at The Job Centre (laughs)
Adam – Well, there are two that we have written, and a third that we are writing. It depends on who we speak to next in terms of the production houses. The projects are all quite different. Two are psychological horror, and one is more of a psychological thriller, so it just depends on what the future brings for that.
I’ll certainly keep an eye out for what comes next. I was about to say I had a lot of fun with Hosts but I don’t know if that’s the right phrase…
Sam – I think you’re allowed to say that (laughs).
Guys, thank you so much for you time, I wish you the best of luck with whatever comes next.
By Hugh McStay
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