Andy Newbery (Keeping Faith, 15 Days) steps away from directing television to team up with writers Lawrence Lamers, Finola Geraghty (Come on Eileen), Brendan Bishop (The Wolfman), and Zachary Weckstein (Out of the Shadows) to bring us The Host (2020)...
...When reading a review for a movie or book the description of the story frequently boasts the phrase “Spoiler Alert” in big bold letters to forewarn the readers about exposing themselves to all the secrets of the plot. However, according to the psychology of spoilers a lot of people enjoy movies in which they know the outcome regardless if the story ends with a twist. The theory revolves around the idea that when the viewer does not have to worry about missing plot points (large or small), then they relax while seeing the movie. Instead of attempting to guess the surprises throughout the showing, movie fans can focus on just viewing the film. So, even though viewers of The Host will find it similar to a classic horror film, do not let the familiarity turn you away. Instead, embrace the spoilers.
BUT BE WARNED, MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
The beginning of the film starts with the recognizable Derek Jacobi (Gladiator, Doctor Who) as Dr. Hobson, who is speaking to an unseen patient with apparently a very unusual case. The opening segment sets a great deal of secrecy as we do not know the identity of the patient, nor do we know the details of the mystery.
Jumping into the main part of the story we meet Mike Beckingham (Subconscious) who plays the main character Robert. His life consists of working in a bank, having clandestine sexual meetings with a married woman, drinking and smoking too much, and putting himself in debt due to excess gambling. His younger brother Steven (Dougie Poynter) continues bailing out his sibling even though Robert ruined all other relationships in his life. Robert keeps piling up his mistakes and finally a sudden 12,000 pound debt puts him in a vulnerable situation. The distraught Robert becomes the perfect prey for Tobo Igawa’s (The Gentlemen, Last Samurai) character Lau Hoi Ho who was lying in wait for someone to make a catastrophic mistake so he could take advantage of it. Lau makes it very clear he can make any problem go away, so Robert agrees to the obviously illegal task set before him. Armed with a set of instructions, Robert leaves for Amsterdam to exchange a briefcase for a suitcase. No other explanation of who or what will benefit from the exchange, but Robert takes the suspicious parcel and heads to The Netherlands.
A chance encounter (or maybe not?) with a fellow passenger named Herbert Summers, played by Nigel Barber (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Spectre) sheds further details about the case and also puts Robert into further trouble. The levels of plot continue to increase and the web of troubles surrounding Robert becomes even thicker. Life just seems against Robert and once he arrives at his hotel, we get the impression if it were not for bad luck, then Robert would have no luck at all. The rooms were double-booked, so the friendly hotel owner guides the frantic traveler to the home of a family friend. Robert walks through the streets of Amsterdam with his new friend, but both are unaware they are being watched by Lau’s assistant, Jun Hui (Sun-Li Ong [Justice League, Snatch TV series]) And finally, after half an hour into the film we get to meet the Host: Vera Tribbe, played by Maryam Hassouni (Scarified). Now, the crimes and the levels of illicit actions Robert experiences differ a bit from the original storyline, but the movie which inspired The Host premiered in 1960, so obviously, the writers needed more up-to-date crimes. The amount of characters introduced in the first fifteen to twenty minutes or so may seem a bit overwhelming, but here’s a spoiler: the host is the character to keep an eye on.
Robert feels his luck might be changing as he enjoys a weird cheese date with his host, and despite the presentation of a 4th century knife and a depressing history lesson, he finally beings to relax. And now that we are a significant amount of time in the movie, you might find yourself wondering “How is this a horror movie?” At this point in the film any horror fan should be able to guess which classic movie title The Host mimics. I’ll give you a hint: secluded hotel with a creepy proprietor. That’s right. The Host is a modern-day Psycho. For people unfamiliar with Hitchcock’s Psycho or for those of you who are very new to the horror genre, this film serves as a powerful combination of horror and suspense.
The story takes obvious turns and the characters perform their roles as to be expected. Some variations occur due to the gender-reversal of several of the roles. Our Norman Bates is portrayed by a woman. Instead of a damsel in distress, we have the vice-ridden Robert trying to work with both the Triads and the DEA. And another familiar British horror tale plays a small role in the plot, but I am going to leave that as a surprise.
The Host stays heavy on the mystery and intrigue, but the film still presents some good feelings of dread. The familiarity of the plot does not take away from the story but heightens the suspense.
The Host shocks audiences when it releases on VOD on January 17th, 2020 through Vertical Entertainment.
By Amylou Ahava
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