Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Host

The Host is the latest film from South Korean director Joon-ho Bong and this is by far the best film of his of the three I’ve seen. The Host is kind of a hybrid film—part horror, part comedy, part social commentary and part family drama. What makes it work in the end is that you forget that it has all these “parts” and just enjoy the story as it unfolds.

The Host begins by letting loose some social commentary about an American military doctor who forces his Korean underling to pour lots of nasty chemicals down a drain that flows directly into the river. The Korean lightly objects yet does what he is told. Bad, no good Americans!

Then we meet the Park family, who run a food stand next to the river. There’s a lazy son, his daughter, grandpa and a sister who is on TV competing as an archer. The Host wastes no time by letting loose the “monster” as 10 minutes into the film this aquatic, lizard looking beast is sprinting all over the riverbanks knocking people down, stomping them and eating them whole in its giant mouth.

Mass panic ensues. Bong films the panic with a nod to Godzilla films the way people scream and run. There’s something comical to me to watch a throng of Asians screaming and running as a mutant fish monster creature kills them in various ways. Put the same scene in Miami Beach and I don’t find it nearly as comical. Although a beast taking out the beautifully tanned and the geriatric might have some humor in it now that I think about it.

The government swoops into the area in an attempt to quarantine those who were near the monster. The Parks and others are tossed into a government hospital/jail for observation and tests. Unfortunately, the littlest Part was taken by the monster and they believe she is still alive—so they all band together and go on a quest to get her back.

I loved the first hour of The Host but unfortunately it begins to drag some toward the end. I wish I would not have seen so much of the monster so early in the film but I’m not sure how they could have filmed that rampaging scene without showing the thing in all its glory. Seeing so much of it lessons the impact of seeing it later in the film. I’m a believer in the less is more theory when it comes to monsters in movies like this. The less you see it early the more it will frighten you later.

The Host finds a nice mix of elements that sort of catapult it out of the “Asian” film world and into a more mainstream one. It’s the monster. Any film with a mutant monster eating people whole is bound to crossover some but I think this one is playing in lots of places a film from South Korea doesn’t usually play—which is good!

Bong is a director to watch as he knows how to set up scenes and has a unique take on ordinary daily interactions between people. My favorite elements of the film were how these people related to one another as they fought the government and this monster in an attempt to save their family. They are dysfunctional but they are still a family. They are a family trying to kill a fish monster while hoping to find a member of their family.

The Host can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Horror, comedy, social commentary, family drama. It’s all of those things. It’s also good. Who cares what is in the mix as long as the mix is good?


Anonymous said...

I heard a review of this one on NPR. Apparently, some American guy actually released a bunch of formaldehyde into a river over there. Nice, eh? I'm not a monster movie gal, but I'm curious to see what the monster actually looks like. Off to find the trailer...

Replicant said...

This is more than just a "monster" film. Plus, it's more in the suspense mode than the violent mode. You might like.