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The Host
DVD disk
08.10.2007 By: Quigles
The Host order
Director:
Joon-ho Bong

Actors:
Kang-ho Song
Hie-bong Byeon
Hae-il Park

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
When a large, grotesque creature captures the Park family's youngest member, they must fight past the government in hopes of rescuing her from its clutches.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
THE HOST is what I would consider the Korean equivalent of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, except instead of a children's beauty pageant, there's a 50-plus foot long mutant amphibian that eats people and spits up their bones. That may sound like a glaring difference, but to be fair, things don't get much more terrifying than children's beauty pageants.

The basic story can be broken down like this: chemicals get poured in river, monster spawns, monster captures daughter, dysfunctional family goes to save daughter, government = jackasses, America = "you suck!", CLIMACTIC MONSTER BRAWL (...with bad CGI fire). Fin.

Pretty standard stuff, right? Wrong! If you want an average, generic monster movie, then wait for the sure-to-be-disappointing Hollywood remake. Meanwhile, this excellent genre mishmash of comedy, horror, action, political satire, family drama, all around weirdness and just balls-out fun... well, you're not likely to find much better.

The first fifteen minutes alone provides a sequence far unlike anything you'd normally see in films of this sort (you know, the kinds that involve some form of monsters/aliens/giant sharks/females on their monthly cycle/etc.). In broad daylight, the bizarre-looking creature comes thrashing across the riverside, mowing down unsuspecting citizens in hilariously weird fashion. It's the type of sequence that both bewilders and exhilarates, and certainly sets the standard for scenes to follow. (Which is a fortunate change of events, because the movie's opening sequence features some of the worst American acting I've ever seen.)

Though nothing quite reaches the heightened awesomeness of the monster's introduction, THE HOST still satisfies in ways most movies don't even attempt. Until recently, America just about had the whole "big action blockbuster" market completely tapped, while foreign cinema had cornered the more artistic and creative side of it. Here, Korea has managed to bring both styles beautifully together, delivering a movie that's as emotionally compelling as it is intense and exciting. When you're not busy clenching your toes in wonder of what could possibly happen next, you'll be laughing hysterically at the film's darkly campy sense of humor.

Further setting apart THE HOST from your standard creature feature is the excellent cast. Each of the actors add a goofy charm to their respective family members, also giving a great sense of realism in that they have trouble cooperating and oftentimes screw up. Kang-ho Song is particularly engaging as the likable but not-so-bright father, who acts as the unintentional advancer of the plot, since it's his mistake that leads to his daughter's capture. It's a pretty devastating moment, but it's hard to feel too bad when you get such an amazing movie because of it.
THE EXTRAS
There's both a single-disc and 2-Disc Collector's Edition available for purchase, with me receiving the former to review. Obviously, fans of special features will be wanting the other one.

Audio Commentary (with director Bong Joon-Ho): This track is in English, surprisingly, and it's exactly the sort of in-depth piece one might hope for. Accompanying Joon-Ho is a notable Asian film critic, who helps steer the conversation in worthwhile directions.

Director Bong Joon-Ho's Reflections (5:24): As the titles suggests, this featurette has the director discussing his movie. He also spends a lot of time apologizing to actors whose scenes he had to excise.

Deleted Scenes (23:20): Mostly, these are just additional characters bits and such, but there some great moments with the monster as well.

Deleted News Clips (4:38): Sort of an extension of the deleted scenes, this extra allows you to see in full the news segments littered throughout the movie.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
There's been a lot of praise and hype for THE HOST as of late, and despite my personal beliefs that it's fully deserved, many others have ended up disappointed. I wish I had an answer to explain this, but I don't. In my humble opinion, it's easily one of the best films of the year so far, and the DVD comes as a must-buy (particularly the 2-disc edition, not reviewed here). With Universal having recently bought the rights to the remake, maybe it'll take the half-assed Americanized version (Godzilla redux?) to prove just how good this film really is.
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