The Host review (Blu-ray)

Romance and science fiction collide in The Host, another Hollywood adaptation of a Stephanie "Twilight" Meyer novel. Like them or not, the Twilight films work, even on a minimal level, whereas this falls flat on its face.

The film is set in the future where the human race has been assimilated by an alien parasite, affectionately referred to as "Souls", leaving a small band of rogue humans in hiding trying to stay themselves. Unfortunately for the Souls, they try to merge one of their kind with human Melanie Stryder (Ronan), only to find out that Stryder's human conciousness is far stronger than they expected. What starts as inner turmoil between Melanie and her Soul turns into a full-blown escape and eventual capture by a human group hiding in the desert. Unsure how to handle what looks like an assimilated human and the apparent two personas that inhabit its body, the humans struggle to co-exist with Melanie, while a rogue Soul called the Seeker (Kruger) tries to hunt her down and quash any human rebellion.

What sounds like an interesting premise is played out to poor effect due to a terrible script and some awful acting. Ronan, who is usually on top form, plays the role like it's a job, which is made all the more worse by some terrible unpassioned monologues where she has to act with herself when both Melanie and her Soul are on screen. Noone of the supporting cast come off any better, with both love interests (Abel and Irons) playing the role of uninterested cardboard cutouts will perfection. Even Kruger, who looks pretty, can't play a villain and makes her character arc feel non-existant. When it comes to Hurt, you're willing to excuse him from ridicule on the point that even he needs to take a job for money. That said, the film does look beautiful, with really effective touches of retro-futurism in set design and costume (director Niccol also shot Gattaca and it's clear to see the visual influences of this on the design of The Host).

Overall, The Host is as interesting as watching paint dry, with a sickly sweet romantic subplot that will only enertain pre-teens with ideological romantic persuasions. What starts off as an interesting idea soon paves way to poor acting and scriptwriting. Another instance where the book might actually be better, if you even like that kind of thing...

EXTRAS ★ The extras are sparse: a few deleted scenes that add nothing to the film; an audio commentary thats very Meyer-heavy; and a behind-the-scenes featurette, Bringing The Host To Life, that also feels a bit too focused on Meyer and not on the cast, crew and production. Fans of Stephanie will pobably find it interesting and insightful, others may find it sickly and underwhelming.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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