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By Alex Saveliev | August 25, 2021

As far as ultra-lo-fi, DIY productions go, you could do worse than co-writer/director Eddie Augustin’s horror thriller Hostage. You could also do a lot better. As derivative as its title, the film contains its share of cringe-inducing moments, some intended as such, and some certainly not. Gorehounds may be disappointed, as the film relies heavily on extended passages of dialogue, at least until the blood-soaked finale. Since the dialogue almost transcends “atrocious” into a sort of blissful lunacy, fans of psychological thrillers will most likely also be left unsatisfied. Neither here nor there, it’s not a keeper, but don’t discard it straight away either.

Ashley (Nicole Henderson) and her father, Thomas (Daryl Marks), apprehend a thief, Mark (Mike Cannz), during the latter’s attempt to break in on Christmas Eve. The hunter becomes the prey, as daddy and daughter tie Mark to a chair and question him. Things only become weirder. “Now we’re gonna have some time to get to know each other quite well, Mark,” Thomas says.

Hostage then diverts to another storyline, its B-plot, taking place entirely within the confines of a coffee shop, wherein Ashley asks someone to murder her mother (Tina Trineer). And there’s the C-plot involving Grace (Maria Jimena Osorio) and some truly reprehensible acts of violence. Viewers are thrust between storylines with reckless abandon, which sadly doesn’t help make any of them palatable.

“…daddy and daughter tie Mark to a chair and question him.”

Ashley is a victim here, okay. Her vicious upbringing led her to this. Her parents, who casually spit racial slurs, embody American sadism, doled out nonchalantly. Is the thriller a thinly-veiled treatise on America’s white suburbia? A study of parental domination? Laura Ashley Polisena and Augustin’s screenplay touches upon these themes – or, rather, slams them into our face with the bluntness of a sledgehammer – but fails to explore them fully. At least, you know, they’re there, limp and lifeless. It’s not all completely stoopid.

The acting leaves a lot to be desired. But no one watching this film expects Macbeth. Henderson turns the ham dial to 11, chewing scenery with relish. It’s a committed performance and enjoyable for its camp value, but a good performance it’s not. Maria Jimena Osorio fares better, surely a more relaxed screen presence, and it’s a shame to see so little time devoted to her character. There’s one sequence involving Grace and a break-in that’s so twisted and well-done, it serves as a glimpse into the film Hostage could have been.

Scenes both baffling and amusing permeate the narrative. Ashley eats a cheesesteak in front of someone in a strange, extended sequence that both draws you in and leaves you slightly dumbfounded. “I’m fine with it, really,” Ashley says nonchalantly, referring to, you know, cold-blooded murder. “You know how I feel about shoes in the house,” the dad exclaims during a tense moment. Other memorable verbal tidbits include: “Chill, you f*****g p***y. Just trying to keep your a*s awake, bitch.”; “As serious as an HIV test, that’s how serious it is”; “Kids die every day. People die, so what.” My favorite quote, however, comes during a throwaway moment that involves a spiel about social security. Again, I wish there were more non-sequiturs like this one.

Cheesy and ridiculous, Hostage may prove to be more fun if you were to stumble upon it really high, awake deep at the night, flipping through channels. There’s wry humor and tongue-in-cheek self-awareness to be found, but you’d have to dig through a hell of a lot of murk to get to it. “Yeah, not very smart,” one of the characters says. My thoughts exactly.

Hostage (2021)

Directed: Eddie Augustin

Written: Laura Ashley Polisena, Eddie Augustin

Starring: Nicole Henderson, Simon Pelletier, Daryl Marks, Maria Jimena Osorio, Mike Cannz, Tina Trineer, etc.

Movie score: 5/10

Hostage Image

"…not a keeper, but don't discard it straight away either."

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