THE HOST (SE)
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
Years after some lab dorks dump a shitload of formaldahyde down the drain, a slimy tentacled monster rises up out of the Han river and causes some bloody havoc. It's up to one brave family to rescue a young girl from the sewer dwelling creature, which just might be carrying a biological plague.
Is it good movie?
The Host has been hailed as "one of the greatest monster movies ever made" and "on a par with Jaws". Now, those are some weighty recommendations, but seeing as how almost everything to come out of the fertile filmmaking country that is Korea, I knew there had to be at least some truth to the reviews. And I was not dissapointed. This movie is one bad-ass, funny, creepy and gorgeous piece of monster movie making.
The characters are well drawn and competently acted, but only when you watch it in the original Korean because the English dubbing is laughably horrible. The movie changes pace multiple times, focussing on various parts of the story, but it manages to be engaging and even charming throughout. The direction here is also superbly done, as is the cinematography, which is at times dark and creepy, and at other starkly horrific. Some of the sewer shots are beautiful, and trust me I never thought I'd say that about a dingy Korean sewer! There is one shot, early on, where the camera slowly tracks past dozens upon dozens of fomaldahyde bottles, while the music slowly builds, giving the audience just the right amount of dread and a sense of "oh shit, what's gonna happen now?". Very nicely done. As well, there's another scene where the monster (yeah, we'll get to it in a minute!) regurgatates a dumptruck load of human bones into the sewer chamber that holds its prisoners, and the effect has to be seen to be believed!
But the biggest star here, as with any great movie like this, is the monster. At first shown only in tantalizing glimpses, and as an ominous shadow under the surface of the water, the monster is soon shown in all of it's rubbery Lovecraftian glory, stomping and crushing its way through a terrified crowd of onlookers with singleminded glee. What I like about this creature is that not only does it main, crush and kill, it also snatches folks and drags them back to the sewer, supposedly stocking the pantry for later. But the creature shows a strange sort of affection for its captives, rubbing its tentacles over them in an anime fetish sort of way, during moments in the film that are both creepy and very well done from an effects standpoint. The creature appears as a luid, realistic monster, rendered with incredible detail and an amazing array of motions. Seeing it swing end over end under the bridge was a trip, and possibly displayed one of the most investive creature designs I've seen in a monster movie since The Thing. Even the emotion conveyed in the ending, which is sad and poignant, is a testament to the artistry used to design the creature.
I won't spoil any of the fun surprises this flick has in store, because you are going to want to check this one out right away. It's a solid monster effort, and a great tale of human courage in the face of biological danger, which makes it also very topical these days. The effects are so sweetly done that any monster fan will appreciate every creative touch that went into the creature's design, and when you combine that with a fun script and a tight story, you've got what I think is one hell of a movie!
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen - 2.35:1.
Audio: Korean, English and French (Dolby Digital 5.1) and subtitles in English and French.
On Disc 1 there is an Audio Commentary by director Bong Joon-ho, which is an excellent listen, and some Reflections of his from filming.
On Disc 2, there is a tonne of monster related shite, including: the massive Featurettes: Making of The Host, Memories of the Sewer, Set Design, Physical Special Effects, Sound Effects, Designing the Creature, Puppet Animitronix, Animating the Creature, The Crew: Production and Visual Effects. These babies take up almost 3 and a half hours of footage, and are well worth the watch for an Asian monster buff, or for anyone interested in slick digital and practical effects in general. We also get some wicked looking Storyboards, the Casting Tapes and Actor Training bits, the obligatory but funny as hell Blooper Reel, some Interviews with the Cast, and a look at the wrapping of the production in the Cast and Crew Goodbyes. I also like the original one sheet cover art on the second disc, and I thought the dvd cover art for this release was weak by comparison. Oh well, it's still a kick ass set (not to mention an ass numbing dollop of features!).
With an engaging, fun and doom filled script, amazing effects and visuals, and a superbly designed and executed monster, The Host just may be the best monster flick to come along in a long while. Believe the hype and watch this monster! This 2 disc set, with enough slick features to choke a ravenous river monster, should quickly become a part of every fan of classic Asian monster movies. Be sure to listen to the excellent commentary from director Bong Joon-ho, and check out the wicked special features on the design and creation of the creature. Featuring a slick blend of CGI and expert puppetry, this is one diseased monster that I would love to see more of!