Jack Hill’s The Host

Jack Hill's The Host title card

A weary man crosses the desert on horseback, pausing in his search to scan the horizon and give his equally weary steed a moment of recovery; in the distance, he spies the remains of a settlement, apparently deserted and crumbling back into the dust, but still a sign of hope and certainly “better than that jail cell.”

Approaching, the fugitive is surprised to see a young woman who silently waits without surprise, as though he were expected; asking for water and rest she guides him inside but backs off when he begins to ask further questions until a single gunshot rings out, forcing him to take shelter in what he realises is an ancient and strange place of worship, but not to any god he recognises.

Jack Hill's The Host; the Fugitive (Sid Haig) spies the abandoned and crumbling settlement.

Written and directed by Jack Hill who would then through a horror phase before his “women in prison” period with The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage before later moving into “blaxsploitation” with Coffy and Foxy Brown, all four starring the iconic Pam Grier, his first film was the Western short The Host featuring another frequent collaborator, 3 from Hell’s Sid Haig in his first role.

Originally shot in 1960 but revised forty years later when it was released as a special feature on Arrow’s Blu-ray of Spider Baby with fresh new opening credits overlaid on the worn and faded celluloid, more distracting is the incongruous synthesiser soundtrack created by Ron Feuer Jr to enhance his father’s original score, sounding more like something from late eighties Doctor Who than a western of the period.

Jack Hill's The Host; the Fugitive (Sid Haig) is pinned down inside a place of strange worship.

With no names given, Haig listed only as “the Fugitive” while the already doomed Joseph Hanwright is “the Spaniard” and Sharon Bercutt “the Priestess,” once the new arrival is trapped she explains the situation calmly but obliquely, the history of her unnamed people who were driven from their homes and pursued across the desert which demanded sacrifice if it was to blossom and give food and shelter.

The ideas of the cycles of natures which must be appeased by sacrifice, specifically of Christian blood, now familiar from the folk horror genre, despite the technical limitations and the age of the print The Host remains interesting by placing these themes in a Western setting, particularly in an almost overlooked short now over sixty years old, the inevitable conclusion obvious to all but the Fugitive who simply trades one prison for another.

The Host will be available on the Arrow platform from Friday 3rd May

Jack Hill's The Host; his duties executed, the Fugitive (Sid Haig) takes his leave of the Priestess (Sharon Bercutt).



Show Buttons
Hide Buttons