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the host 2020 review
A London banker is forced to make a dangerous trip to Amsterdam when he runs up a gambling debt.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Andy Newbery

Starring: Maryam Hassouni, Mike Beckingham, Dougie Poynter, Nigel Barber, Suan-Li Ong, Togo Igawa, Daniël Boissevain, Tom Wu, Derek Jacobi, Jeroen Krabbé, Fabian Jansen, Reinout Bussemaker, Dominic Keating, Margo Stilley, Ruby Turner

the host 2020 poster

The gorgeous Saul Bass-esque credit titles of Andy Newbery’s pleasingly schizophrenic thriller-come-torture-porn indie The Host readily informs us that the film’s plot was put together by four different writers (Finola Geraght, Brendan Bishop, Laurence Lamers and Zachary Weckstein), an admission which probably accounts for the film’s palimpsest nature: its occasionally aimless pace, but also its left field surprises. And there are surprises! Fair is fair, I really didn’t see the bombshells coming in this initially unassuming crime drama.

the host 2020 review

To really broach the best of The Host, spoilers are necessary. For the first half hour, wherein we meet our hapless semi-protagonist Robert (Mike Beckingham), the stakes are seemingly so low, despite entailing international espionage and fraud, that you may consider knocking the film off. But don’t! Not yet, at least. Stick with it as we watch Robert having it off with an attractive lady in a lovely hotel room overlooking the Thames, before getting unceremoniously dumped by her. Endure Robert rocking up at work in a private bank to half inch an off-the-books deposit of 50 grand. Watch as he wanders through Seven Dials and has an expository argument with his brother and then check your phone to discover that, yes, bloody hell, the brother (Steve) IS actually played by Dougie fucking Poynter from McBusted! Minor unlikely casting excitement over, roll your eyes a bit as Robert attends a seedy but also still quite classy (there is a live soul singer who is ace) after hours joint and gambles his ill-gotten gains away, incurring a debt from some right nasty bastard to boot. Looks like Robert is over a barrel, perfect opportunity for a couple of other shady characters to blackmail him into taking a suitcase over to Amsterdam. He just cannot catch a break, this guy!

the host 2020 review

The problem is, unlike, say Marion Crane (The Host’s touchstone), who also got up to tricks in a hotel room before trousering the contents of an employee’s safe, there is no sympathy generated for Robert, who is one of those braying demi-city boys you see marching around Covent Garden with a swaying sense of entitlement whom everyone despises (seriously though, when you get five minutes, re-watch the opening of Psycho, and marvel at the immoral magic of how Marion becomes the most important person in the entire world to us despite being really quite an awful woman). Robert has it all. With cash on hip, he is surrounded by nice looking women and enjoys access to cool night clubs. Yet, as is the way with these charmless men, it is not enough. And what’s more, the guy simply bumbles along into one situation to the next, with no narrative motion. The plot just picks him up and seems to drop him in various scrapes which he suffers with the same world-weary countenance, whether the situation involves being dumped or threatened with death.

the host 2020 review

And thus, Robert’s bumble takes him to Amsterdam, where the film, thrillingly, makes the most unexpected of gear changes. Briefly signalled by the urban grey colour scheme deepening to a sinister aqua blue, we quickly plunge into the gory realms of extreme horror - and how! Robert ends up in an exclusive hotel drinking cocktails with the only other occupant, another seriously attractive woman. And just as you are idly thinking, wouldn’t it be an interesting if highly improbable plot twist if this lady turned out to be some sort of sadist driven to psychosis by historic sexual abuse, exorcising her troubles by torturing hapless men to death as if it's 2006? It, gloriously, all kicks off. The film then leaves it to Dougie Poynter in a Vera Miles role to investigate the disappearance of his brother, and the viewer to make sense of the icky pop-Freudian implications of the murders and the Byzantine McGuffins of the narrative.

The Host is now available on iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Apple TV, Microsoft Movies and TV and Fandango Now.

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