An Ideal Host (2020) – One Hell Of A Dinner Party

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

One of the genres that’s consistently hard to get just right is the Horror-Comedy. Sure some films do hit that mix right out of the park (Evil Dead 2, Tucker & Dale Vs Evil, etc) but for the most part they tend to either be more horror or more of a comedy and never quite hit that perfect balance. Today’s film, An Ideal Host, leans on the side of caution and splits the film into doing comedy at the start, horror at the end and it actually works out pretty well.

An Ideal Host is about Liz (Nadia Collins) and her partner Jackson (Evan Williams), a sweet couple who have decided to host a quaint little dinner party for a few of their friends, and one uninvited guest who ends up tagging along. At first the dinner seems to be going well, a little awkwardly at times but for the most part everything is going along nicely until something happens that will turn the night into a violent horror show for everyone involved, potentially leading to the end of the world as we know it.

Before An Ideal Host started, there was a video from the director who described the film as “Very silly and scrappy as fuck” and honestly I don’t know if I can come up with something better than that… so, end of review…

OK fine, I’ll keep doing my stupid job.

"An Ideal Host" Nadia Collins, Evan Williams
An Ideal Host” Nadia Collins, Evan Williams

For a film that was shot very on the cheap with a small crew in a house in the middle of nowhere, there’s a stunning amount to love about An Ideal Host. For starters, the film is basically just what’d happen if you took the story of The Thing and put it in a little farmhouse in Australia and didn’t have the budget to pull off Rob Bottin levels of visual effects (though for a film with no budget, they do pull off some pretty impressive gore moments).

For roughly the first half of An Ideal Host it’s so low key, it’s just a quirky little comedy about a bunch of friends having a nice dinner (including a pair of gay guys who are just part of the damn film… hey Hollywood, if this film can just throw gay people in without any hassle, what’s your excuse?) with some very good jokes and quickly defined characters. It’s the kind of opening that tricks you into a false sense of security so once things start going pear-shaped and the horror element kicks in, it’s genuinely unexpected. You could show someone the opening half-hour and the final ten minutes of this film and have no idea how they bridged the gap in tone between them, but somehow this film manages to pull that off.

Once An Ideal Host starts going for the horror element, it goes hard in that direction and really doesn’t let up. For a film that spends a good amount of time making charming jokes, the final act of the film is a viscerally upsetting sequence with some moments that actually made me wince with sympathy pains. For a film that starts with mostly emotional pain caused by an annoying guest, it ends with people losing arms and getting their guts caught in the tires of cheap second-hand cars… which is pretty much how most films should end, if I’m being honest.

Of course, An Ideal Host is also a movie that was shot with a tiny crew on no budget, so there are some slight tech issues you have to adjust to. The sound mixing isn’t the best, there’s a couple of shots where the colour correction is just not good and other things that one really associates with low budget films made by a bunch of friends who just want to put on a show. Once you adjust to that, you’ve got a genuinely fun and clever film that has enough charm and intelligence to make its very silly scrappiness work in its favour.

An Ideal Host is like one of those knockoff toys you buy at The Reject Shop, it’s a little iffy looking and cheap as all hell but you can still have a ton of fun with it. The passion behind this is what really makes it work, it’s got more than a few good laughs and scares to make for a really enjoyable time. This is the kind of film where you really hope that someone gives the director and writer a proper budget just to see what they can do without the heavy restrictions placed upon them (of course then you remember that this film is made in Australia and we stopped really caring about our own film industry back in the 90s, sadly). 

Zero Fucks (2020) – Unsubtle As Hell

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Zero Fucks Info

It shouldn’t be a controversial statement to point out that Donald Trump is a giant raving douchebag with fascist tendencies, a boner for his daughter and a penchant for being extremely rapey while also giving zero fucks about the very concept of democracy… it shouldn’t be, but welcome to 2021 where everything is awful and we learned nothing from history because we let basically Hitler with a bad tan run wild with a government all of his own for 4 years and we’re currently living through something that can only be compared to the Spanish Flu of 1918. Things suck and they will continue to suck until the earth is finally done with our shit and kills us all… what I’m saying is that now is the perfect time for a film like Zero Fucks which is basically just 80 minutes of venting several years of built-up anger at the state of things.

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Origin of the Species (2020) – I, For One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Origin Of The Species Info

Do you remember the Tay Twitter bot? For those who don’t remember, this was a Twitter bot that Microsoft designed in order to try and get an AI to learn how to have a normal human conversation… and because they put this on TWITTER, that bot went from sweet and charming to full-on Nazi in under 24 hours. It was a quick lesson in how quickly an AI can learn and how that learning can be used to create something terrifying… and the limits and uses of AI make for an interesting time in the Sydney Underground Film Festival entry Origin Of The Species.

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Shit & Champagne (2021) – Effervescant

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Shit & Champage Info

It’s been no secret on this blog that I’m a very big fan of drag queen films, having reviewed more than a few of them over the last few years. The drag queen film can be split up into two seperate but equally important groups, the first one being where it’s about drag queens and the film acknowledges that these are drag queens. Things like Cherry Pop, To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar or Death Drop Gorgeous (to name three films I reviewed and can therefore link to, thus improving SEO) would fit into this since all the characters involved are stated to be drag queens, even if they’re in drag the entire goddamn movie. The second kind of drag queen film casts drag queens in female roles and treats them as though they were just regular women, basically any role that Divine ever played is a role that’s meant to be a woman and they just happened to cast a Drag Queen. 

Today’s movie, Shit & Champagne, is a beautiful and glorious example of the second kind of drag movie.

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Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché (2021) – Obsessed with This

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

After the gut-punch of a documentary with Lydia Lunch, it feels right to wash it down with a documentary about another performer that broke boundaries in her own unique way. The idea of course was to try and watch something that was a little lighter and maybe a little easier to take on… stupid me forgetting that the Sydney Underground Film Festival thrives on really just fucking with the audience. So, time to talk about Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché.

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Fanny: The Right To Rock (2021) – Wonderful Feeling

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Fanny: The Right To Rock Info

The history of music is filled with some truly great female bands. The Go-Go’s, The Runaways and The Bangles just to name a few that hit big mainstream success. One band however is considered to be the first all-female rock band to be signed to a major label, a band that would influence all the others that followed, were championed by such icons as David Bowie and would open for bands like Slade and Jethro Tull… that band was named Fanny and they were at the forefront of women’s right to be rock stars (which is great because that gives their documentary a fantastic subtitle to put after the semicolon).

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Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over (2019) – Unearthly Delight

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

I’ll be honest and admit the name Lydia Lunch was not one I had heard of before I started watching the documentary Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over. Why would I? I’m an unhip Aussie who wasn’t even conceptualised back in 1979 when Lydia started performing with her band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (which… yeah, best band name ever, calling it now). In a way, I feel like not knowing anything about Lydia worked to my advantage because watching the film felt like being punched in the face with shock and awe, which feels like it fits in well with her aesthetic.

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Sleeze Lake: Vanlife at its Lowest and Best (2020) – Van-tastic

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Sleeze Lake: Vanlife at its Lowest and Best Info

There’s an old truism that “If you remember the 70s then you weren’t there”. This has also been applied to the 60s, largely because of Woodstock, but it can also apply to the 70s when everyone was just doing endless amounts of drugs… like, enough drugs that anyone who was around in the 60s or 70s isn’t allowed to ever talk shit about what drugs the youth of today do. Anyway, this era led to a lot of memorable big festivals where a lot of people did a lot of drugs. Today’s Sydney Underground Film Festival entry is about one of the lesser-known drug-filled festivals, but also one of the strangest.

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Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest (2021) – GAME ON!

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest Info

It’s been two years since I’ve been able to go to a film festival, specifically my favourite film festival on earth. The Sydney Underground Film Festival, a festival dedicated to strange underground films that are usually shown in this great little venue that’s clearly not really meant for a film festival but some nutbags decided to put up a projector in a few rooms and boom, you got a festival.

This festival provided 2 previous entries to my “best of” list, that being Greener Grass and Use Me, and I was hoping to get to go again this year but… well, that thing that meant I only got to review Fast and Furious 9 yesterday moved the festival to online only. The upside? That means that for the next month I’ll be able to get through a lot of these films that I might not have been able to see if I was going in person (maybe that’ll keep me sane until this lockdown ends). 

So, let’s start this off with a documentary about a guy and his arcade system.

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