The Host

Beckingham's malice: Mike Beckingham as a hapless gambler and banker in The Host
Verdict: 
5/10 - The Host has the makings of a serviceable horror and a crime thriller, but sadly as they are bodged together - neither really comes to fruition.
Release Date: 
Friday, April 17, 2020
Written by: 

The Host sees Mike Beckingham play a hapless banker caught up in the criminal underworld.

5

With a cast led by Derek Jacobi, you might think director Andy Newbery's The Host is a prestige drama that has fallen foul of the Covid-19 pandemic and ended up tucked away on streaming services.

You'd be wrong, however, as Jacobi very much has a bookending, minor role, and The Host is very much the opposite of a prestige drama.

Instead, it's a strange British B-movie concoction - part Hitchcockian thriller, part tame torture horror - with neither part quite satisfying and nailing the genre.

Mike Beckingham plays Robert, a cashier at a bank serving the extremely wealthy who is having an affair with his boss's wife.

To potentially start a new life, he steals £50,000 from an off-the-books safety deposit box, but in a move that shows he's no master criminal, swiftly fritters the entire sum away in a single poker game at an illegal gambling den owned by triads.

In fact, the game was set up by triad mob boss Lau (Togo Igawa) so he can force Robert into carrying a briefcase to Amsterdam and close a heroin deal.

Yet, when he arrives in the city, he finds his hotel is full and is sent to a luxury apartment - only to find that the owner, gorgeous socialite Vera (Maryam Hassouni), turns out to want to hold a budget re-enactment of the Saw movies, and chains Robert up in the basement.

Hunting for him is his brother, Steve (McFly rocker Dougie Poynter) and a DEA agent (Nigel Barber) - who previously approached him to inform on his triad partners.

 

Three writers, Finola Geraghty, Brendan Bishop, and Laurence Lamers, have credits on the movie and it shows.

The Host starts as a London crime caper before going to another place entirely, without drawing you in like the best thrillers and taking you through various stages of mystery, intrigue, and terror.

Hassouni aside, the performances aren't terribly convincing - although it's sometimes difficult to tell if this is the actors' fault or the fact the two brothers' at its centre are relatively dull Yuppyish Sloanes, rather than the likeable leads needed to capture our attention and make us truly care about their fate.

That said, there is a certain budget B-movie charm to The Host - it's not nasty and gratuitous, and despite the prevalent gangster and horror movie cliches (dangerous triads, surgical saws, corrupt cops) at least some thought appears to have gone into constructing a serviceable and thoughtful thriller on a budget.

It's just that with its ideas meshed together incoherently like a cut and shut car, The Host never really gets to the point where you can take it truly seriously as either a crime caper or a horror.

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