Robert (Mike Beckingham) is having an affair with a colleague behind her partner's back. They meet once a week for sex in a hotel room which, he quips, is bigger than his entire flat. He's not been promoted once in the last seven years of working as a teller at a London bank, you see. He's the lowest grade in his workplace; he gets little in the way of respect from customers and even less from his superiors. The affair is ended by his colleague as a result.

When his boss leaves early one evening and asks Robert to lock up for him, he sees this as an opportunity to steal £50,000 in cash from a safety deposit box. Perhaps his luck will change?

After work he meets up with his brother Steve (Dougie Poynter), who's married and wealthy: everything Robert isn't. Steve expresses his concern - "you smoke too much, you drink too much, you gamble ... I can't be the only person you owe money to" - but this is not met kindly by an insulted Robert. He scraps their plans to catch up over a meal together and instead decides to visit an iffy casino in the Chinatown district.

He gets into a poker game with Li (Logan Wong) and ends up not only blowing the money he stole, but finding himself in debt to the tune of £12,000. Broken, Robert retires to a table near the bar to drown his sorrows - where he's accosted by shady businessman Lau (Togo Iwawa). Lau says he "invests in friendships" and wants to befriend Robert by paying off his debt, and then some. Specifically, he offers £150,000 cash to the beleaguered banker. All Robert has to do is catch a plane to Amsterdam the next morning and swap a briefcase there for a suitcase, then return with the contents. What are the contents? "It's best not to ask", Lau cryptically advises. Robert's told his life will be in danger if he loses either case along the way.

Of course, extreme conditions demand extreme measures ... Robert accepts Lau's proposition.

The following day, Robert is on that flight to Amsterdam. Minutes into said flight, a middle-aged American sits next to him - Herbert (Nigel Barber). It turns out Herbert is a special agent working in conjunction with the likes of Interpol and Europol, trying to stop international crimes such as the trafficking of drugs or counterfeit money. He recognises the emblem on the briefcase Robert is holding as belong to a notorious Triad gang, and says Robert must go ahead with the exchange in Amsterdam in order for Herbert to catch the crooks at the top of the chain.

Complications arise when Robert arrives at his designated hotel in Amsterdam and is immediately informed by manager Gerrie (Reinout Bussemaker) that his room has been double-booked: he's relocated to a nearby establishment ran by Gerrie's friend, the comely Vera (Maryam Hassouni), who seems very accommodating.

As Robert prepares to settle in for the evening, he overhears Vera arguing with her father. Moments later, she knocks on his door and invites him downstairs to join her for an evening meal. She's pretty and charming - of course, he obliges.

They have a pleasant chat and Vera even winds up inviting Robert to share a moonlight dip with her in the swimming pool out the back of her motel. But, as he strips off and jumps into the water while she goes to grab a couple of glasses of wine, he's disturbed by more arguments overheard between Vera and her dad. She returns with two glasses of red wine, handing one to the horny Robert.

And that's the point where his night goes from bad to much, much worse ...

In the meantime, yuppie Steve learns that Robert is missing with £50,000 of stolen cash from the bank. A female colleague of Robert's informs Steve that she received a text revealing he's in Amsterdam. So, guess where Steve's next port of call is? Herbert's on the case too, of course.

Such is the twisty-turny nature of THE HOST; I can't offer any more of the synopsis without entirely spoiling the plot. You need to go into a film like this as blindly as possible. Suffice it to say, it's at the midway point of this curious film that it takes an unexpected leap from crime thriller to full-blooded torture-porn horror territory. And then the curveballs keep coming.

British director Andy Newbery has forged his career over the last thirteen years mainly in the field of television - helming episodes of "Casualty", "Keeping Faith" etc. THE HOST - disappointingly generic title aside - marks a solid, albeit trashy, transition into the realm of film.

THE HOST crosses genres, and continents, deftly while maintaining a fluent pace and consistently flaunting impressive production values. It becomes very colourful in latter scenes, almost reminiscent of giallo cinema.

An interesting cast consists of Simon Pegg's brother (Beckingham), the bassist from McFly (Poynter), Jamaican singer Ruby Turner in an early cameo, Jeroen Krabbe and even Derek Jacobi as a psychiatrist during bookending scenes. They all rise to the task of translating the frankly ludicrous pulp screenplay (enjoyably so) to the screen, but only so much can be done with a plot so steeped in derivativeness.

Elements of PSYCHO and HOSTEL abound, once the intriguing smuggling exposition has been exercised. This doesn't mean THE HOST is bad. I actually found it entertaining, but in much the same way I found the likes of THE COLOUR OF NIGHT or SHOWGIRLS entertaining. Now, with the latter, there's a strong case for it being a deceptively clever pastiche of erotic thrillers. With THE COLOUR OF NIGHT ... well, it's simply a guilty pleasure. And THE HOST falls squarely into this category.

The stylish animated opening titles sequence recalls the work of prime Saul Bass. Coupled with a nice old-school score, there comes a strong argument to argue that this is hoping to be Hitchcockian. The later PSYCHO references, obvious as they are, reinforce that notion. But THE HOST loses its way by not being sure what genre it wishes to fall into, a little like the technically excellent but ultimately confused 90s film MUTE WITNESS. Both flit from crime thriller, to horror, and then back again with insufficient finesse.

Still, I wouldn't want to discourage people from checking THE HOST out. It's proficient in many ways, and does entertain. It's never dull.

We were given an online screener link presenting the film uncut at 102 minutes and 57 seconds in length, and in its correct 2.35:1 ratio. It looked great in HD: pin-sharp, colourful and authentic in every way (depth, texture, flesh tones etc).

The English 2.0 audio was spot on too, no issues with balance or clarity whatsoever.

In light of the global pandemic panic of 2020, Pearl Pictures Productions are releasing THE HOST straight to a myriad of streaming on-demand platforms including i-Tunes and Amazon Prime where it's available to rent now.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Pearl Pictures Productions