An elderly Dr. Ames is walking through the mist-shrouded woods and falls onto the road. He looks back and sees a giant brain sitting on a hillside, and then collapses in exhaustion and fear. Wade Norton is driving by and sees Ames, stops, and goes over to check on him. Ames, dying, gasps and clutches at his chest. Wade makes him comfortable and goes to look for help, but sees no one and nothing nearby. On the hill, the giant brain transforms into a house. Ames tries to warn Wade, but the young man is too far away and Ames turns into dust and blows away a few seconds later.
Wade finds an old pocket watch on the forest floor and a picture of a beautiful young woman inside. He sees the house and goes to it, and someone watches him approach from an upstairs window. Wade sees the curtains close and knocks on the front door, and they open on their own. He goes inside and looks around, trying to find anyone. There is a smoking cigarette on the piano in the parlor, but no sign of the owner. Wade snuffs it out in the ashtray and goes to the hallway. He hears a noise and goes into a room, and sees the young woman from the photo sitting in a chair, passed out. The woman, Theresa "Tess" Ames, wakes up, jumps up, and runs out in fear. By the time Wade follows her to the hallway, Tess has disappeared into a seeming maze of hallways leading away.
Wade goes back to check the book that Tess was reading. Three people appear in the doorway: Ethel and Randall Latimer, and Florinda Patten. Wade explains that he saw an old man lying in the road, and Ethel confirms that Wade is holding Ames' watch. Randall tells him that Wade has come to the wrong place, insisting that the watch and the old man have no connection, but Ethel dismisses her husband's concern. Florinda asks how old the man was, and Ethel says that there's no phone in the house. When Wade says that he doesn't understand, Ethel tells him that he will eventually. Florinda asks how old the man was, and Wade says that he's the oldest man he's ever seen. Randall tells Florinda that it wasn't Ames, and figures that Wade has some special knowledge or skill.
Florinda tells Wade that she's an actress and Wade says that he's having a bad dream. Randall says that Wade probably dreamed up the whole thing, and Ethel dismisses his statement as rubbish. Wade goes out to help Ames, and Tess returns and says that Ames is gone by now. She tells Wade that he's kind to want to help Ames, and says that his kindness won't be repaid in kind. Wade asks her if the picture is of her, and Tess confirms that it is and it belongs to Ames. Tess says that Ames has been dead for a long time and walks away.
Ethel tells Randall to tell Wade what's going on, and Randall says that he won't until he knows who he's dealing with. They bicker and Wade tries to walk out. He's pulled toward the hallway and the three occupants watch, curious. Ethel tells him not to be afraid, and says that Wade looks pathetic and it's dreadful. Randall tells him that they tried to fight when their times came but it was useless.
Upstairs, Wade finds himself in a black void. An alien creature, The Host, votes in the void and addresses him. It chuckles and analyzes Wade's emotions, and says that he's in the Host's control room, and asks if he can give him the unknown statistic that will balance the equation. It anesthetizes Wade's fear and explains what an equation is, and how it wants to break down humanity's emotions as a mathematical expression representing the ultimately destiny of Mankind. The Host displays visual representations of the positive factors--procreation, work, fate, art--and the negative ones--destruction, fear, hopelessness, and hate. It admits that it's a missing factor and prepares to searches Wade's mind for it. Wade figures that he must resist even though he doesn't know why, and the Host doesn't recognize the quality Wade is displaying: defiance.
Wade returns to the parlor and finds Florinda, Ethel, and Randall going about their business. Florinda tells him that he's lost like they are, and Randall asks if Wade submitted to it. He doesn't think so, and Ethel says that the Host will bring him up again and again, and warns that none of them will leave until the Host dies. She rambles about how then it will become the present rather than the past. She explains that Randall thinks that they're all figments of his imagination, and that they've been in the house since 1929. Randall tells her to curb her imagination, and says that he's an investment broker on his way to New York City to answer charges of misconduct. Ethel tells him that he's been accused of fraud. Florinda says that she was a silent-movie actor who couldn't make the transition to talkies because of her voice, and the studio let her out of her contract. She was going to NYC to become a talkie actress, and Ethel taunts her, suggesting that she go out the front door.
Wade says that he's going out, and finds that the doorway has disappeared leaving a wall behind. The others watch as he goes to the parlor windows and finds that they're walled over as well. Randall tells him that they're all prisoners, and says that the Host has undreamed the door and windows. Florinda says that the Host controls all of their dreams, and Ethel insists that she's wide awake and loving it all. Tess is sitting in the parlor, and Ethel picks up a violin and plays a few notes. As Randall laughs, Tess tries to take the violin away from her. Wade intervenes, and Ethel goes to her room and orders Randall to come with her. Wade realizes that they all enjoy what's happening except for Tess. Florinda leaves and Wade asks Tess how long she's been there. She doesn't know, and Tess says that she's much older than she looks. Wade wonders if he's dreaming at all, and says that his heart hurt when he saw Tess' picture in the watch case. He refuses to submit to being trapped and figures that there's a way out.
The drifter goes back to the hallway and searches for the exit. He walks through the maze of hallways as Tess follows him, and Wade finds doors that lead to nowhere. Wade eventually finds himself back in the parlor and finds Florinda pouring herself a drink. He asks why Tess followed him, and she says that she didn't want him to be alone when he gave up. Tess breaks into tears and sits down, and Wade hugs her and then kisses her.
The Host observes the exchange.
Tess pulls away, shocked, and insists that she didn't want to kiss Wade. Wade doesn't believe her and they exchange names, and Tess asks if he wants to leave. He does and she leads him to a door and opens it revealing a cemetery outside of the house. They go outside and Tess tells him to go through the gate. Wade asks if he makes her uncomfortable, and Tess asks where he drifts to. He says that he drifts from, and tells her to never interrogate the wind. Wade asks if she can leave with him, and Tess says that she can't. She cries at the thought of Wade leaving, but says that he must leave and hurry. Tess tries to run into the house, and when Wade stops her, she says that once the Host "dissects" him, he won't want to go. The door opens on its own and Tess goes inside.
The Host watches and says that the missing factor is in Wade even if he doesn't understand it. He brings Wade to him, and Tess screams at the Host to stop. It continues probing Wade's mind, and Wade says that his head hurts inside. He asks the Host to let him go, but it says that he has projected a new factor into the equation. The Host wonders if the emotional pain is making all of Wade's feelings unclear, and then recognizes hatred in Wade's mind and realizes that it's new to him. Wade asks if he will be caged like the others, and the Host says that each of them have a door but they don't try to leave.
Wade returns to the parlor and finds Ethel, Randall, and Florinda playing cards. He asks why they're pretending they're trapped, and Randall says that the Host is lying to him. Randall insists that there is no way out, and Wade demands the truth from Ethel. She wonders why he cares when he considers himself above them as a dreamer, and figures that he's not so sure he might stay and dream himself a life. She needles Randall and Florinda, and says that her duty as a wife is to share her husband's life. Randall figures that she tears him down to build up her own self-image, and Ethel tells him to shut up. Wade asks Tess to go with him, and she says that the Host won't let him go now.
The Host brings Wade to it and reviews his thoughts, and says that it must understand his emotions even if he will discard them as inconsequential. It says that it caught a glimpse of Wade's emotions before his hatred blotted out, and tells Wade to return to the parlor while he considers the matter without Wade's emotion of hope. Wade is surprised to learn that he has hope and goes to the parlor. Tess isn't there, and Florinda comes over and kisses him briefly. She says that she had to do it because a scene in her first picture, Her Madcap Hear,. Florinda asks if he thought she being sincere, and Wade leaves.
Wade finds Tess in the cemetery and asks if she'll try to escape with him. Tess refuses but he doesn't believe she's giving up. Everything goes silent and Tess realizes that Wade can escape while the Host isn't watching. Tess says that it's as far as she can go, and Wade asks what she's afraid of happening. She tells him that Dr. Ames was her father. The moment he stepped outside of the gate, his years caught up with him and he became the 120-year-old man he was. In the house he seemed to be living just like Tess is. Wade insists that Tess is alive, but she tells him that her years are waiting for her outside and he should leave while he still can and he's real. He asks why she stayed until it was too late, and Tess explains that her father saw it as a way of resigning from the human race. Tess stayed because he needed her and asked her to stay, and insists that she's an illusion. Wade says that he wants to love her and will stay there with her forever, and there's nothing she can do or say to drive him out. Tess tells him that there is and goes through the cemetery gate. Her years catch up with her and she withers into an old crone in seconds and turns to dust.
Going through the gate, Wade looks at the pocket watch that is all that remains of Tess. He goes back into the cemetery and closes the gate, and says that there's nothing outside for him. The Host speaks to him, saying that there's nothing outside now that he has it inside of himself. It explains that Ward has the missing factor and tells Wade to close his eyes to illusion and go back to reality and love, and Wade will take love with him when he goes. Wade walks out through the gate.
In the house the lights dim and the three guests scream in terror as they realize their time is over.
Wade watches as the "house" reverts to its brain form and then disappears.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 24, 2019