Hostile (2015) [Fantasia Film Festival]



Two orphan sisters, Emilie and Anna, are taken in by Meredith who only wants to give them as good a life as she possibly can. Not long after the girls move in, odd and scary phenomena starts happening. The girls act out and Meredith calls a reality show, SOS Adoption, for help. Their host Chloe and her cameraman Chris come to stay with the girls while they send their new mom away. The odd events and the scare factor kick up a notch after she leaves. This is only exacerbated by the fact that Chloe thinks they might be facing a case of possession as she has seen one before.

The story here is not as clear cut as it seems and takes a few twists and turns during the movie. Is it a ghost story? Is it a possession story? Are the girls simply crazy? Is something else going on? As the film doesn’t show an interest in picking one for most of the its runtime, the viewer is left guessing at every turn, but not actually caring. The film here suffers from the way it was written and directed. Not only does the story not know what it wants to be, the shooting style changes a few times. Yes, it is shot mainly found footage style but some of it is through a professional’s view and the rest through random characters’ cameras.

The characters are also problematic as none of them feel like they are given the time and attention for the viewer to develop an interest in them or in what happens to them. The two main characters, the girls, do not come off as nice people, they are hard to care for, which does add to their adoptive mother’s burden but also adds to them not being people one would care about. A few more soft of vulnerable moments for them would have worked wonders here. It would also have given the final twist more impact.

The writing and directing here were done by Nathan Ambrosioni who also served as cinematographer, special make-up artists, editor, etc. He is a one-man army of filmmaking most likely for budgetary reasons. Unfortunately, this is a case where the input of other people would have helped as a new pair of eyes or two could have brought suggestions to help make the characters and the story more cohesive which would have brought the mother’s struggle into focus and the girls’ characters could have been made more interesting.

One thing must be said of the lead actresses: they do a fantastic job with what they have, showing a great range within the parts they were given. Each of them gives off a negative vibe more than the usual teen angst. The younger of the two sisters, Anna, shows more depth being a scared little girl at times and a deranged person at others. Luna Belan shows great potential here; her performance catches you even though the story is not that layered. Julie Venturelli plays Anna’s older sister Emilie and also does well. However, her character shows a lot less emotional range which gives her less of a chance to shine. The rest of the cast is mostly decent to good, none of them really shining but this may be due to the story or directing or their lack of on screen experience as it must be noted that the entire cast is composed of newcomers with no or little experience before this movie.

Through all of this, the filmmaker did manage to create a few decent scares and build a little bit of tension which are all pretty much obliterated by the twist at the end. All the questions one may have had are answered by cancelling what came before almost completely and ignoring some of the most interesting elements that had creates some of the tension. This is one movie that needed more direction, more cohesiveness.