The power of low expectations again. Still reeling from the shock that “The Croods” was a lot of fun, I approached “The Host” with trepidation. After all, it’s a book adaption from visionary of our time Stephenie “Twilight” Meyer, and I still haven’t quite recovered from the ending to “Breaking Dawn”. A 12% rating on Rottentomatoes and an iffy trailer sweetened the deal further. But I quite enjoyed it!
Aliens have taken over Earth with no signs of a struggle. But this is a benign invasion, they don’t mean to kill, they are squiddly diddly alien dust-bunnies that slither into your brain via an incision in your neck and assume control of your body. No really evil motives, they just want to experience our world and make it better before we ruin it. They cured all illness, conquered stains (they wear a lot of white so this was a priority) and defeated greasy fingerprints – honestly, I’ve never seen so many chrome-finished surfaces.
Having assimilated nearly everyone, there are pockets of people who resist this, willing to kill themselves rather than become hosts. In some cases though, the personality they replace won’t go away, and indeed this happens to the lead female character, Melanie, assimilated in the opening scenes. She has to deal with her new tenant, Wanderer (is she vegan or something?), and – with the help of some passionate scenes in Melanie’s wank bank – succeeds in convincing her to give up the alien lifestyle to find her kid brother and old boyfriend with the promise of getting some cock (reading between the lines there).
She easily finds her uncle’s mountain base, despite astonishingly vague directions and sunburn that made her look like Lindsay Lohan, but is treated by suspicion from the surviving humans who don’t want to trust the alien invader. Or not at least until they start fancying her. On top of all this, a fierce-eyed Seeker is having some intergalactic menopause and breaks from her non-aggressive race to hunt that bitch down.
If you don’t think too much about the unanswered plot questions (how did the otherwise-helpless aliens take over their first human?) and just accept the scenario, for me it was quite a unique take on the alien invasion/bodysnatcher story. It was established early that the aliens weren’t evil, so it was easy to feel sympathy for both sides of Melanie/Wanderer.
Sure, it had the inevitable doe-eyed teen romance (holy fuck, that lead guy) and the melodramatic dialogue that made Twilight so cringey, but all in all the acting was quite understated, and lent the film a calm that I thought fitted the premise well. It was never supposed to be an action film, despite a few action sequences to wake people up.
The ambient soundtrack might have been taken from a homeopathy shop stereo, but it was a good fit and didn’t distract. Similarly the stunning but otherwise placid scenery of Monument Valley, USA (or thereabouts) looked amazing and was a good match for the isolated human community.
As for the cast, with all due respect they were fairly identikit and didn’t need to be particularly great to carry the burdens placed on them. The young cast were pretty (Max Irons!), the old cast sounded wise, and Diane Kruger really nailed her role of icy nutjob Seeker quietly losing control of her principles.
I’m sure these sort of points are ones that are generating so many bad reviews, but the long stretches of relatively little going on left me to think through the premise a bit more. I just enjoyed it really, it’s not an incredible film but I think being Twilight-adjacent was enough for the critics to let loose, and I think this may be unfairly maligned as a result.
Why the hell was the otherwise fabulous Emily Browning reduced to an unnamed listing on the credits? I’d say her character was QUITE IMPORTANT.
The ending was drawn-out, and the final epilogue pointlessly tacked on, but otherwise I’d recommend anyone with an open mind to see it. Here’s a hopelessly misleading trailer!: