The Host

In the not-too-distant future, life on planet earth is perfect. World peace has finally been achieved. There is no more war, hunger, disease, or environmental disaster, and humans live in contented harmony with each other. Sounds pretty cool, no? So what’s the problem? Aliens have infiltrated the human race and taken over our bodies, that’s what. There’s always a catch, isn’t there? The few unaffected and pure humans that are left are on the run and in hiding. Fewer still are powerful enough to withstand total “colonization” once infected. A young girl named Melanie Stryder is one such anomaly. Though infected, her inner humanity still maintains a strong hold on her mental faculties and helps her in her resistance to the aliens. But in this sphere of reality, when you’re outnumbered a million to one, assimilation is inevitable and resistance is futile.

Stephenie Meyer, author of the popular Twilight books, switches gears from vampires to parasitic aliens in this new series. The overwhelming success of the Twilight and Hunger Games films has spawned this new genre of super-gifted, super-hot teenagers in super-dangerous situations. The Host tries to catch similar lightning in a bottle with the casting of Saorise Ronan as Melanie but doesn’t achieve the same dynamic resonance as Kristen Stewart and Jennifer Lawrence did in their respective franchises. HD picture is exceptional in spite of the film’s noticeably modest budget. Daylight exteriors of the desert landscapes are bright, clear, and vivid with no pixilated grain to speak of. Rapid camera movements give way to minimal soft focus and image blur issues, but shadow detail is excellent, and gradation from light to dark is smooth and even in the low-light interiors of the caves.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 performs exceptionally well for an understated low-budget science-fiction adventure. This isn’t one of those nonstop action juggernauts with a sound mix that will shake the floorboards and wake the neighbors eight blocks away, but there are moments of remarkable audio flair and subtlety. But the thing that impressed me most was the score. I was expecting some over-the-top rock ‘n’ roll noise-fest, but the music here is subtle, moving, and dramatically effective.

On the negative side of that spectrum, however, Melanie’s conflicting and schizophrenic interior dialogue between her alien self and human self relentlessly harasses the center channel to the point of aggravation. As a plot device, it’s interesting for the first two minutes, but the welcome soon wears off and we wish that she would just shut up and leave us to figure out the plot’s complexities on our own.

Extras include a short featurette, four lackluster deleted scenes, a faux PSA from the aliens’ perspective, and an audio commentary with author Meyer, director Andrew Niccol, and producer Nick Wechsler. DVD and Digital Copy are included.

The Host explores that familiar and ever-popular theme of imperfect but noble humanity overcoming impossible odds through love, compassion, and fierce resolve against the evils of foreign oppressors, alien invaders, and such. That mankind would rather live in misery or die than be a slave to fascist conformity is the eternal mantra and underlying message here, but it’s been depicted before and in better films than this.

Studio: Universal, 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 126 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Saorise Ronan, William Hurt, Frances Fisher

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