Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Host - A Monster Movie I Wish I Had Made

This is one of those movies that I heard about more than a year ago, so I put it in my queue where it just sat there in Netflix purgatory until I finally remembered why I wanted to see it. Hate when that happens.

I should have seen it immediately - this is a great film.

The Host (for the two or three of you who haven't seen it already) is a South Korean monster movie that centers around a mutated fish-frog beast, a deadly virus, an inept Korean government, a corrupt and exploitative American presence, and a sleepy-headed protagonist that no one will listen to.

What you might expect is a typical low-budget monster movie that at best achieves levels of entertaining camp. 

What you get however, is the best monster movie since... dang, since I don't know when.  It is surely better than Cloverfield, or that horrible Roland Emmerich Godzilla farce.  It is at times funny, scary, politically scathing and heart-wrenching.  It is also beautifully shot and masterfully directed from a script that focuses on (gasp) character development over blowing things up.

Interestingly enough, this was not some low-budget genre piece, this was a major blockbuster-type big-budget film (at least in South Korean terms - about $10 million), that still managed to hold onto its core vision.  You see, this is a monster movie that really isn't all that interested in the monster - this is very simply a story about a father who has lost his daughter and will do anything to get her back.  It is also a story about family - non-traditional family structures and the love that binds them.

 Just as Let The Right One In raised the bar for vampire movies by taking a more low-key and personal approach, The Host reboots the monster movie by focusing on the real effects on people's lives.  Yes, I know many movies try this approach (I actually thought Spielberg's War of The Worlds did a pretty good job), but most fail because their heart really isn't in it.  While they pay lip service to building their characters and relationships, they really just want to get to the money shots of big-ass monsters smashing shit up.

The Host presents us with a family that will fight for each other and die for each other.  When their government, police and military not only let them down but actively try to capture and torture them at every turn, they have only themselves to rely on - nothing but their dogged determination, a few molotov cocktails and a bow and arrow to fell the angry beast.

This is also a story of redemption - where every character gets a second chance to overcome their own personal demons - some fail and some succeed.  What more could one ask from a movie.


  1. Yeah, it's a great film. I also find the balancing of different tones (comedy, drama, thrills) impressive. Easily one of my favorite films of the past decade. You should also see Mother and Memories of Murder, two films by the same director of The Host, Bong Joon-ho.

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