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Film Review: The Host

Ray Milland in ‘The Man With The X-Ray Eyes’

It is widely considered that Roger Corman’s The Man With The X-Ray Eyes (or ‘X’, as it was called on release) is the best film of the 1960s B-movie heyday. The film’s extraordinarily entertaining combination of gore, romance and adventure make it a very enjoyable watch, even if one has only started watching it so as to be able to laugh at it. In X, Ray Milland’s lead character takes a drug designed to expand the human mind, but ends up with two black, bulging eyes that can see through any surface. Another film that features unusually exaggerated eyes is The Host, the new teen-oriented sci-fi/romance/action/drama/adventure from Twilight author Stephenie Meyer and director Andrew Niccol.

What??? Surely that’s not the Andrew Niccol who directed superb 1997 sci-fi Gattaca and 2005 drama Lord of War, or even the decent 2011 futuristic thriller In Time? How could he stoop so low as to direct this apparently awful pile of rubbish? Honestly, I can’t answer that question. Whilst I watched (0r, attempted to watch), this spectacularly bad film, I couldn’t help but wonder what extremely ambitious and expensive project Niccol is planning that he needed to fund using his payment for this. It must be something on the scale of Cloud Atlas, something no studio is willing to fund. Hopefully, it will be something so brilliant, we will be able to forgive Niccol for directing (and writing!) The Host.

Regular readers of my reviews will know that i’m a big fan of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books, and the subsequent series of films, which featured superb casts, original stories and extremely moving romance. I attempted to read The Host several years ago as I awaited the release of the final Twilight book, but I lost the plot after 50 or so pages. That book’s complicated plot and cast of characters turned many potential readers away, and so the film and Niccol’s script have dumbed down the story by about 700%. Gone are the confusing flashbacks and sideplots and in is the continuing and unengaging narrative involving Saoirse Ronan’s characters Melanie (human, Texan, sarcastic and apparently hilarious) and Wanderer (alien, possessed Melanie’s body, Californian [they are alien after all], and very serious indeed). We don’t see much of Melanie, but we do get a strong sense of her character through the infuriating internal monologues that feature from the beginning of the film to near the end. How the author of some of my favourite books of the past decade, and the director of some of my favourite sci-fi films of the past century managed to pull of such a failure in both their respective genres that I wanted to stand up and run out of the cinema screaming is a mystery to be, but it must be partially the fault of the studio. Oh wait, was a studio even involved?

The film’s budget of $44m was only half that of recent teen sci-fi hit The Hunger Games (a film that looks twice as good as Citizen Kane when compared with The Host), and was clearly entirely spent on Niccol’s fee and some shitty helicopter shots of the desert. Oh yeah, and William Hurt and Diane Kruger, two fantastic actors who let themselves down severely in this film. Diane Kruger is barely in the film, and is only there to make an angry face and stomp around the desert in some ill-judged high-heel boots.

Saoirse Ronan is a decent actress, and a lovely girl, but doesn’t have the realistic sexual emotions or basic acting skills to pull off playing, not one, but two characters! The film looks boring and awful, with its orange and white colour scheme and unoriginal setting.

One last thing about The Host: Emily Browning makes a cameo near the end. Why?

Basically, everything good about X is bad about this. Get a DVD of that, and don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you like Twilight, you’ll like this. It’s all lies! What this film needs isn’t an alien possession, it’s an exorcism!

Grade: 1/5

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Lucien writes on film, television and politics at LuwdMedia.com and co-hosts the podcasts Above All Else and The 99%.

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