I’ve never walked out of a movie in my time on this earth. Not once. I’ve always found that even in the instances of witnessing something truly terrible, there is something to be learned from the experience, specifically what not to do in making a good movie, and also what to look for in recognizing another bad one. Besides, we can’t go through life only taking in good films. It skews the scale of taste, as how can you really know what is good, unless you’ve experienced the other end of the spectrum? So for that reason, even at the sacrifice of my own time, I’ve always tried to take something away from the terrible, never allowing myself to split early, in the hopes of salvaging my money from supporting such slop.
And then I met THE HOST, and I came about as close to walking out on a flick as I ever have before in all my movie-watching history. Within 15 minutes of the film’s opening, I absolutely wanted out. I wanted to get up out of my seat, and leave this abysmal adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s novel behind, not wanting to give it another second of my time. However, I stayed the course, and I rode it out, knowing that was the only way I could commit a fully formed opinion of THE HOST. I wouldn’t be able to explain to you how atrocious this thing was if I only caught a 15-minute glimpse. Plus, what if, by some miracle, it got better? (It doesn’t.)
THE HOST kicks off with Earth at peace, more perfect than it’s ever been, but that’s because the human race has been occupied by a strange, unaggressive alien race that inhabits our bodies. However, there remains a resistance to this extra-terrestrial takeover fighting for the survival of mankind as we know it, refusing to give up their identities so easily, one of which is Melanie Stryder (play by Saoirse Ronan). Upon putting up her best fight and actually choosing to kill herself rather than playing host to these parasitic organisms, Stryder still manages to survive and jump from a high window, because literally her will to live is too strong. She gets possessed by the alien anyway, and we are exposed to this wacky voiceover that represents the presence of the creature within her... and that’s how nearly all of THE HOST will play out - with an internal struggle between the alien, who chooses to be known by the name Wanderer, and Stryder over actions, feelings, words and memories. Ronan’s voice will debate itself, with Wanderer’s thoughts verbalized externally, and Stryder’s represented by the voiceover. So for nearly two hours, you’re watching someone essentially talk to themselves... and what is most irritating about the whole process is that the host never seems all that pissed at its inhabitant. I’m just spitballing here, but if the body snatchers came down and controlled me, yet I still had the capacity for a mental presence as my mind tried to fend off total extinction, I don’t think I’d be so calm, cool and collected in dealing with it... nor would anyone else. Your interactions would fall somewhere in the “Get the fuck out!” range, falling near the reasonable and rational conversation territory. And yet that’s where THE HOST takes this absurd relationship. For all intents and purposes, Stryder and Wanderer become friends, even as Wanderer tries to gain deeper access to her host’s memories. Stryder even directs her captor to find her uncle and a group of resistance survivors, as she remains a prisoner trapped within her own body.
Things get further laughably bad as we watch this comical love foursome unfold with Stryder pining for her old beau Jared (Max Irons, who somehow manages to keep a straight face through this garbage), even though she won’t let it be known to him that she’s still inside, as Wanderer begins to develop feelings for his best friend Ian (Jake Abel). So essentially you have two guys seeking the affection of the same woman whose mind is split in two... And if it sounds preposterous to you on paper, include dialogue that’s written as if it came from the fantastical mind of a 13-year-old girl and it’s even worse on-screen.
Wanderer makes claims that she is against the rest of her race, and would like to help this particular band of humans... and they take her up on her offer. Yes, the creature that is inhabiting the actual girl they know... they go ahead and make friends with her. She’s living among them. She’s earning her keep, tending to the crops that are somehow growing deep within caves, all while they know their friend and relative is trapped in this mind. Now I pose the question to you... would you befriend your loved ones’ kidnapper? I didn’t think so.
All of this occurs while Stryder/Wanderer is being pursued by Diane Kruger playing who else...? The Seeker. And let me mention Antonio Pinto’s endless score that sounds like the ride queue music of Space Mountain before I have to stop, because just recalling what I had to sit through with THE HOST is starting to pain me once again.
What makes THE HOST so egregious is Andrew Niccol, who both directed and wrote the adaptation. There is nothing that stands out about the look of the film, with the only money that looks to have been dropped in production value being whatever it cost for these aliens to drive around in Lotuses. However, the script is even worse. Stephenie Meyer’s works are hardly Shakespeare, and he may have been scraping the bottom of the barrel as it was from the very beginning, but that doesn’t mean you make zero effort to improve it for film, so as to make it watchable. It’s such a lazy script that relies on whole conversations of exposition for you to understand the aliens, why they’re here in the first place, what they want, etc. It’s as if Stryder serves as the audience for long periods of time, asking the questions you’d like answered to some degree so THE HOST makes some bit of sense, and then Wanderer will answer them so you have some level of understanding, even though her responses are as idiotic as can be. It’s awful writing as its worst, which is a foundation no film could ever recover from. Make the characters as bland and uninteresting as possible, and THE HOST is severely unwatchable.
THE HOST is a terrible film with absolutely nothing positive going for it. Not the acting, not the filmmaking, not the art direction, not the costumes... nothing. Anyone sitting through this who isn’t a 11-year-old Meyer reader is asking for all the misery they have coming to them. This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and the one lesson I took away from it is that if I was ever to make a film, whatever they did in THE HOST, do the opposite.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
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