' Cinema Romantico: The Host

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Host

This is Korea's answer to "Godzilla". A monster movie for the modern-day filmgoer. Exciting, scary and just the right amount of tongue-in-cheekedness. And perhaps the greatest reason I've come across as to why I should, in fact, get a cellphone (although I still definitely won't).

"The Host" opens with who-knows-how-many bottles of dirty fermeldyhyde being dumped down the sink at a U.S. research facility in Seoul and finding their way to the Han River (this was based on actual event). I mean, this whole set-up feels like something straight out of a 50's monster movie (especially the way the U.S. American guy explains it all away) and, as far as I'm concerned, every monster movie should feel as if it's straight out of the 50's. Inevitably the dumped chemicals mutate into a monster that one afternoon emerges from the river to storm the banks, terrorize, off a few unlucky souls, and even take one prisoner in the form of a little girl named Hyun-Seo whose family we've conveniently just been introduced to.

Hyun-Seo's father, Kang-Do, isn't the most in-touch or the quickest fellow in the world but the love he has for his daughter is genuine, even if he does give her a beer she doesn't necessarily want. He works in a little snack shop run by his father down on the banks of the aforementioned river. He also has a brother who is a college graduate though still unemployed and a sister who is a stellar archer that just took home a bronze medal in a recent competition (and do you think that little nugget will come into play later on? Of course, and that's the beauty of it). They both think Kang-Do is a moron. Their father is inclined to agree but, of course, he still loves his son.

So anyway, like I was saying, poor Hyun-Seo gets taken away by the monster and so her father, and the rest of the clan, despite the fact that they have been shoved away in a hospital since Kang-Do came into direct contact with the monster, resolve to rescue her.

And what follows is a wonderous blend of drama, comedy, social commentary (does the "host" really spawn a virus?), and action. Oh, the action. This is how it's done, people. There comes a moment when little Hyun-Seo seems to have devised a way to escape the vile clutches of the monster. Does she? Doesn't she? You can discover this on your own. But the way it's filmed is perfect in every way - the way it's shot, the music, the silence, the timing. It's the whole package. I realized after it unfolded that I was sitting in my theater seat with my mouth agape, my hands dug into the chair and one leg up and in front of me as if I was suddenly going to have to fend off this monster.

One would expect the entire family to learn the meaning of life while it simultaneously goes about its rescue mission. But you would be wrong. Our heroic tribe demonstrates precisely what a family is. Regardless of the fact that they squabble, and make wrong decisions, and perhaps don't really like one another, when an amphibious, mutated monster comes and takes one of their own, well, by God, they're gonna' go and get her back. And that's why "The Host" - rather than some made-for-Hallmark-film - is the ideal portrait of unconditional love.

3 comments:

Wretched Genius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wretched Genius said...

I try to watch every horror/monster/alien movie that ever gets released. I got my hands on a DVD of this a few weeks back (after all, it's been on DVD in Korea for 6 months). I was riveted all throughout the first act (the monster-run-amok-in-a-crowd-scene may well be the best of its kind). What followed was a 14 1/2 hour second act that almost lulled me to sleep, until the OK-ish 3rd act woke me back up.

Now, I do like comedy/drama mixed with my monster madness, but that second act......jesus. 20 minutes could have been cut with no effect on the story. It felt like they touched on the same points over and over. Example: the father/grandfather is going on and on about his son. The brother and sister fall asleep while he rambles. At this stage, the audience gets the joke, and they also get that the grandfather feels partly responsible for his son being an idiot. But the grandfather keeps talking...for TWO MORE MINUTES. To himself! Slowly! And in those two minutes he says nothing that we don't already know. Character development is not merely repetition.

I think the movie's biggest flaw was making its first act the most engrossing. Sure, the 3rd act was good, but it never got back to the level of the movie's opening.

Rory Larry said...

Cinema Romantico and I must have watched two completely different movies, because while he was on the edge of my seat, I was falling asleep. While he was laughing, I was wishing I could be anywhere else. I found not one thing about this movie compelling. The social commentary and anti-American sentiment was like suffering blunt force trauma.

The main family was uninteresting, the film was full of long and unnecessary scenes and most in fact all the humor was forced down my throat. The film makers seemed more interested in making the monster move in a cool fashion than in developing anything close to a sympathetic and interesting character. Its a sad day when I much preferred the by the book Mark Wahlberg action flick "Shooter" to this film.