Local television show, SOS Adoption, comes to the home of Meredith Langston to document sisters Anna and Emilie as they make the transition of living in their new home with their foster mother. Everything seems wonderful at first but then the girls begin acting strangely. Playing frightening games and speaking to people who aren’t actually there. It seemed like a typical story at first but the television crew soon uncovers the terrifying truth about the sisters.
Even though the ratio of good/bad movies in the supernatural and found-footage sub-genres tends to be higher on the bad side, I still enjoy both. Well, these days, found-footage movies are bordering on being guilty pleasures, but I digress. So when I came across “Hostile” in the programming for Fantasia International Film Festival, it immediately had my attention.
Meredith Langston, a middle-aged woman, adopts sisters Anna and Emilie and everything seems to be going fine at first — the three seem to be a perfectly normal and happy family. That is until the girls begin acting strange. Playing very unusual games and speaking to people who aren’t there. This behavior causes their tutor to contact SOS Adoption — a TV show that deals with how children adapt to their foster home. This seemingly standard news story takes a frightening turn as the people around Anna and Emilie being acting crazy themselves or out right disappear.
There was a bonus level of interest in Nathan Ambrosioni’s feature film debut, “Hostile”, since it was about two sinister sisters. The plot synopsis I read and the trailer I viewed lead me to believe this could be in the vein of films such as “Don’t Deliver Us From Evil” or “Death Game” where a film’s antagonists are two young women who are evil incarnate. When I was actually watching “Hostile”, I was overcome with disappointment because it deviated from those initial expectations I had. My own fault for putting those expectation on the movie, of course, but in the end, “Hostile” was an average modern horror movie when it had a great deal of potential to be something better.
I’ll go ahead and admit that “Hostile” did nothing for me. I can’t say I disliked the movie, but ultimately, I didn’t get what I wanted out of a movie like this. “Hostile” is very much a movie for today’s younger audiences as it blends two of the more popular sub-genre styles — paranormal and found-footage — into one streamlined film. Ambrosioni did a commendable job of having his film go from a traditional movie to a found-footage style, which allows “Hostile” to get away with a bit more than if it were to be simply one or the other.
Where the film lost me as a viewer is where I think it will win over the younger members of the horror audience. For me, with supernatural movies, I like a slow-build with a focus on tension and atmosphere. “Hostile” is a fast paced movie; once it starts, it doesn’t stop until the end credits. And it’s that fast pacing is why I refer to “Hostile” as being a streamline movie — it dumps you in the middle of the story and doesn’t waste time on details. You immediately know these two sisters are evil, and up to something sinister, and it bounces from one plot point to the next as quick as it can until it hits its twist ending.
I almost want to tip my hat to the film as it is able to cut through the bullshit — to put it bluntly — and focuses on getting from A-to-B in terms of its story. That’s the best thing to do for modern audience, but it makes the film and the film’s plot feel underdeveloped. Even though the film trimmed the fat, so to speak, by not bogging itself down with details you can find yourself scratching your head from how things develop. There’s more of a focus on getting to the next scene with less attention on how to get there and it eventually becomes questionable about why characters are behaving in a certain way, or why they are where they are in a particular moment in the story. There’s an attempt to remedy this issue through dialogue but for the most part, “Hostile” is a movie where the more you think about it, the less sense it makes.
It reminds of when Trey Parker gave a lecture on writing and story development where he said he replaces “ands” with “therefores” in the story. The writing behind “Hostile” stayed more in the former category where it can broken down to simply being: “And then this happens. And this happens. And this happens.” When it should have been: “And then this happens, therefore this happens.” It’s a movie that has an idea and it has characters, but it’s more interested in creating certain scenes (like having a television crew stumbling upon a possessed girl doing the spider-walk routine) or situations rather than being about cause and effect.
Again, I can attest that to this being a movie designed for modern horror audiences. It’s less about a story and more about creating a ride, and watching “Hostile” was a lot like being in a haunted house — you move along while various things jump out and scare you, but you never focus on what it was that scared you but instead keep moving to try and make it to the end. While I may not have enjoyed it, the movie will work for a particular audience since it hits all the necessary beats it needs to, while tossing in enough jump scares to keep some form of tension going.
I do feel that it is worth mentioning that Nathan Ambrosioni was 14 at the time of making “Hostile”, and being his first feature, I’d say “Hostile” is fairly remarkable in that regard. It’s a rough movie for the reasons I’ve stated, but it’s an ambitious and respectable effort and I’m sure Ambrosioni will be turning out solid horror features before long.