There’s something intensely wrong with Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series and now The Host, upon which Andrew Niccol’s new film is based. I can’t tell you if it’s a marketing hook, or if there is actually something profoundly dysfunctional about the woman’s sexual proclivities. She spent years writing child-puke piddle about the obsession of two men — a vampire with the grimaced look of a man trying to pass a two-by-four through his bowels and a wolf with a two-by-four in place of his brains — with a character with all the personality of a cardboard stain. Now in The Host, Meyer finds a way to pull off a similar, more obscene feat: Writing about two vacuous men who are obsessed with the same body, which is inhabited by the minds of two women.
There’s some seriously porn-y sh*t going on in the repressed mind of this lady, but it’s that repression that separates her bad writing from the bad writing of E.L. James (50 Shades of Grey). At least James allows her lewd kinkiness to pop off the page. Meyer, on the other hand, seems determined to drape a hair shirt over her libido, rub herself up against her zipper until it chafes. There’s amazing potential for a three-way between four souls in The Host, but Meyer puts it on a low simmer, featuring only a few frustrating stolen kisses and park-bench conversation. She has to save the double penetration for the sequel, I guess.
The Host is set in a future where the souls of a kind and civil alien race have inhabited the bodies of Earthlings, not to destroy but to assimilate and protect what we have taken for granted. The aliens, which look like puddles of glowing, tentacled vomit, are inserted into a slit in a human’s neck. They download the person’s memories and return to civilization as happy, courteous people who follow the speed limit, tip the wait staff well, and otherwise mind their Ps and Qs. One of the few remaining humans who have not had their bodies inhabited by aliens is Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), who leaps through a window in a four-story building to avoid alien occupancy. She miraculously survives, however, and an alien, Wanda, is inserted into her.
But Melanie is a fighter, which we know because the characters remind us of that fact on 47 different occasions. She doesn’t allow Wanda complete control of her mind; she insists upon occupying the same mental space, and in doing so, directing Wanda to the other survivors, a hidden enclave built into a mountain in the desert where Melanie’s brother and boyfriend also reside.
In case you’re wondering how we know that Melanie is sharing brainspace with Wanda, it’s because they carry on conversations throughout the entire film: Wanda speaks out loud via a voiceover. For two fucking hours. For one hundred and twenty agonizing minutes we listen to a woman have conversations, arguments, and discussions WITH HERSELF.
The survivors, of course, are fearful of Wanda, who they are concerned will lead other aliens into their community and occupy them, but eventually Wanda convinces them that Melanie is still kicking around in her mind. She even relays some of Melanie’s insipit thoughts to her loved ones. In the meantime, Wanda develops a crush on another survivor, Ian, which is problematic because Melanie is still in love with Jared, and Melanie is not happy about renting our her body to Wanda’s sexual needs. It’s another way for Meyer to work in a abstinence theme: Wanda cannot act upon her urges because Melanie’s body would be cheating on Jared, while Jared can’t murder Melanie’s vagina because it would be a betrayal to the mind of Wanda.
Wanda and Melanie become very close friends over the course of the film, sisters even, bonding over their shared dislike of a rogue seeker alien who is not as nice and courteous as the other aliens, and who wants very badly to complete the alien invasion.Their bond is so close that, at one point when Melanie’s soul goes quiet for a few days, Wanda makes out with Melanie’s boyfriend to provoke her into returning, which is pretty warped if you think about it.
If the premise of The Host sounds ripe for unintentional comedy, you would be right, except for the fact that it’s all so very plodding, glacially placed, and tedious. It’s difficult to laugh at the absurdity of The Host when you’re fighting to stay awake. Niccol’s sterile approach — the same one he brought to the brilliant Gattaca — doesn’t help matters, either: He refuses to treat the daft source material with anything other than deadly seriousness, which is like dressing a wet fart in a suit and taking it to church, only much less interesting. Meanwhile, the otherwise talented Ronan is reduced to carrying on listless conversations with the ineffectually sarcastic voice in her head. It’s a lumbering, slumbering slog.
It’s also terrible sci-fi that presents a handful of lousy half-formed ideas and then miserably executes them without any real regard for the rules of the genre. But what I’m most incensed by is that Meyer — and the people behind The Host — are cruel enough to inflict such far-reaching stupidity into multiplexes, where the toxic asininity of it could leach into the masses. The Host doesn’t so much reduce our collective IQ as it boot stomps it into a mushy paste of brain pasta. The Host is more than a dreary, incoherent mess; it sticks a finger up the butt of competence, wiggles it around, and holds it under our noses for nearly two hours until the pungency ripens and flowers into a bouquet of failure. It is a wretched film, ill-suited even to Twilight-softened brains of Meyer’s target audience.