The Host (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet) (2013)

Actors: Saoirse Ronan, Jake Abel, Max Irons, Boyd Holbrook, Frances Fisher
Director: Andrew Niccol
Writers: Andrew Niccol
Producers: Nick Wechsler, Steve Schwartz, Paula Mae Schwartz, Stephenie Meyer
Format: Color, Widescreen
Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
Region: All Regions
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Number of discs: 2
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Universal Studios
DVD Release Date: July 9, 2013
Run Time: 252 minutes




For the last few years, we have witnessed the relentless spread of Stephenie Meyer across our culture like a rash. Fans excuse her insipid hackery with vague admonitions of teenage girldom, conveniently overlooking the fact that her heroines are the worst role models for teenage girls this side of crystal meth addicts. Stay passive and helpless! Suicide is better than being alone! Do everything for love, even if involves a stalker who refers to you as his own personal heroin!

Thankfully, that long nightmare appears to be over . . . or at least has received a significant setback. After ruining vampire stories for an entire generation, Meyer set out to do the same thing for alien invasion scenarios. The Host took a rather brilliant idea – what if total occupation by body snatchers made the world a better place? – and slathered it with a thick helping of YA absurdity, then served it up to us with the full expectation of reaping Twilight-esque profits. Instead, audiences stayed away in droves, turning The Host from the next big thing to a forgotten afterthought.

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer picture . . . and by “nicer”, I mean “face-clawingly awful.” Watching talented actors like Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger and William Hurt waste their efforts on this drivel is hard enough, but adding Meyer’s creepy sexual politics turns it into an active disaster. Ronan plays Melanie Stryder, one of the few free humans remaining after an alien takeover. Our species now acts as hosts to glowing sea anemones who control our bodies and minds. And that’s actually a good thing. Under their control, the world actually becomes a wonderful place. There are no more wars, crimes, violence or mistrust. We live in harmony with the environment, and the Earth has begun to heal from centuries of abuse. It’s a fascinating notion that The Host demonstrates absolutely no interest in.

Instead, it quickly gives Melanie an alien parasite that – in a flagrant violation of the film’s own rules – doesn’t wipe out her soul. They battle each other for dominance in a staggeringly bad series of voice-overs, only to give themselves over to an eventual standstill that transforms into a full-blown alliance. Do they use that to try and free Melanie’s fellow humans or reach a better understanding with the aliens? Of course not! She has a pair of pretty boys to choose from – one of whom loves her and one of whom loves the alien! Isn’t that much better than talking about all those icky boring alien invasion things?

I would be more inclined to be gentle if the love triangle held any kind of creative juice, but the subplot sucks the life out of everything it touches. The boys (Max Irons and Jake Able) are blank ciphers without the barest fundaments of personality, and their rivalry consists of scene after exasperating scene of the worst dialogue this side of Shyamalan. The trio moons back and forth while the human resistance dithers, the aliens fume and anything that might actually justify our attention gets crushed beneath the banality of Meyer’s “vision.”

It gets worse. Melanie’s internal battle carries the disturbing message that girls should be afraid of their bodies, and while we constantly hear how strong she is, we see in her only the shallow musings of a child at play. Ronan can make a ferocious screen presence in the right hands. Here, you can actually see the moment when she checks out and starts spending her paycheck in her head. The same goes for writer/director Andrew Niccol, a terrific filmmaker utterly at sea with this turd of a story. When talent like this fails to make a dent, it’s time to drop the whole affair and move on.

Thankfully, people did. The Host took a beating at the box office, scuttling plans for a franchise and presumably freeing those involved to concentrate on better things. The Blu-ray gives us a new chance to ignore it all over again . . . hopefully marking the first steps in weaning ourselves off of the author’s toxic prose that have held us all hostage for far too long.

THE DISC: As befits a box office dud, Universal has made only token steps to make the Blu-ray worthwhile. The image is nice, with a solid sound mix and the expected DVD and digital copies included in the set. Beyond that, there is just a smattering of extra features: one behind-the-scenes doc, a few cut scenes, and audio commentary with Meyer, Niccol and producer Nick Wechsler.

WORTH IT? Not unless you are into skeet shooting and need a trio of target discs on the fly.

RECOMMENDATION: There are countless movies out there about strong young women who deal with life, love and the travails of a dangerous world. This is not one of them. Its creepy moral underpinnings are matched only by its utterly banal storyline: you can actually feel your brain cells dying as you watch. Even Meyer’s own fans pretty much ignored this one; we strongly suggest you follow their example.

- Rob Vaux



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