The Host (2020) – Film Review
Director: Andy Newbery
Cast: Maryam Hassouni, Derek Jacobi, Mike Beckingham
by @Roger Crow
Oh my days. Where to begin with The Host?
Well, let’s start with a fact: it helps if you know absolutely nothing about the Anglo-Dutch thriller. Which obviously will make this review tricky, so let’s just say: imagine if one of Hitchcock’s best movies was remade with a nod to a classic Sondheim musical; a torture porn thriller such as Hostel, and shot like a dreamy 1970s Euro melodrama.
That gives you some clue of what to expect. It also helps that the cast don’t carry a lot of baggage, aside from Derek Jacobi, who tops and tails the yarn. A nice role for him at least; he gets to sit down for the duration and was probably on set for a day.
We open with Robert Atkinson, a feckless London banker who pinches a load of money from work; gambles in a casino; loses (inevitably), and is offered a shady job to pay off his debt.
Said assignment involves a trip to Amsterdam, where things take a sharp left-hand turn when he winds up at a hotel which seems too good to be true. For any normal person, alarm bells should be deafening at this point, but Robert’s a bloke who trusts in the kindness of strangers, bless him. Which is nice in the real world, but here? Not so much.
After about an hour, events take another twist, and his equally nice-but-dim brother is called in to find his missing sibling.
“Pretty hooked throughout”
Now while most of the cast do a good job, one of the actors is just okay. He lacks the gravitas to make the part work, which partly comes down to bad casting, and partly poor editing. The movie could have been a lot snappier, and some of the dialogue isn’t great.
Having said that, the fact I was pretty hooked throughout is testament to the storytelling. While it owes a HUGE debt to Psycho (the story structure is almost identical), there are enough other curveballs to keep you watching. And while the finale is rather annoying, with a closing scene so nails-down-a-blackboard predictable, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t ‘enjoy’ it.
A better script, a couple of cast changes and tighter editing, and this would be a far better movie. It’s an intriguing diversion that could have done with losing 10 minutes, but as long as you don’t expect too much, it works wonders.