The Host (2020) review


By David Dent

As the opening credits roll, complete with Saul Bass animations and a very Bernard Herrmann soundtrack, one’s first impression is that director Andy Newbery is homaging Hitchcock. And one look at the plot confirms that fact.

Robert, an inveterate gambler (Mike Beckingham, Simon Pegg’s brother), has mounting debts and is also involved with a married woman, who would consider leaving her husband if Robert’s financial position improves. So when an opportunity presents itself to steal £50,000 in cash via his job at a bank, he takes it. And then promptly, to use current parlance, spaffs it up the wall when he blows the lot over a game of poker at the local casino.

But help is at hand – local triad boss Lau Hoi Ho (Togo Igawa) offers to cancel the debt if Robert will travel to Amsterdam for him and exchange a suitcase of money for one full of heroin: he accepts. On the flight over he is seated next to Herbert Summers (Nigel Barber), a chief from the DEA who is wise to the deal, but offers to go lightly on Robert in return for going through with the exchange and leading the agency to Lau.

Once in Amsterdam, his planned accommodation in a room over a burger bar has been double-booked, but Gerrie the restaurant owner sets him up with a room at his friend Vera’s place. Vera (Maryam Hassouni), who lives alone in the house except for her housebound father, is young, charming and very helpful, right up to the point where she drugs Robert’s drink, lashes him to a table in a laboratory and cuts him into pieces, storing the Robert meat in the freezer, where she later gives it to Gerrie, presumably for the burgers.

Later Robert’s brother Steve (Dougie Poynter), along with Jun Hui (Suan-Li Ong), another triad member who in reality also works for the DEA and is undercover, come looking for the missing man. And eventually arrive at Vera’s house, where she has a sharp welcome waiting for them.

Yes, Newbery has completely ripped off the story of ‘Psycho’ for his debut feature – guess whether Vera’s dad is alive or not? – and chucked some vague torture porn into the mix as well. And you know what? It’s very entertaining stuff.

Amsterdam is always lovely as a shooting location, and Oona Menges’ cinematography makes everything look very classy. It’s racist as hell of course – the baddies look like they’ve stepped out of an episode of the 1970s TV series ‘Shoestring’ – and the jaw positively drops at how Newbery has appropriated one of Hitch’s greatest films.

But what the hell: it’s an audacious and well-acted romp and makes for a great evening’s lockdown viewing. Oh and Derek Jacobi’s in it for two minutes, and soul diva Ruby Turner gets to sing the closing credits song.

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