DVD The Host
Some genres and sub-genres in cinema are timeless. The monster movie is one of these, a sub-genre that will keep repeating itself over in exciting new ways. We’ve seen King Kong steal his damsel in many sequels and remakes, seen Godzilla quash buildings and people in equal measure, and now we are treated to a mutated unspecified fish monster terrorizing the denizens of Korea in The Host.
We follow a family throughout the film once the beast emerges from the banks of the Han River and steals main protagonist, Gang-du’s daughter. When the clean-up crew come in and the issues of radioactivity come into play, the central and highly amusing family of the plot are taken away by the authorities. Shortly after, the family discovers that Gang-du’s daughter is actually alive and our band of heroes takes it upon themselves to escape and rescue the thirteen year old damsel in distress from her sewer prison, with the US and Korean forces hot in pursuit.
When the family are split up, the narrative follows each character in their individual attempts to try and trace the daughter, each with their personal quirky method, and, as they do, the film occasionally cuts back to our victim and her predicament within the slime coated sewer as she befriends a similarly trapped young boy and the two try to escape…
Bong Joon-ho’s film is a satirical and immensely fun piece of cinema that will make you laugh and hide in fear as effectively as the hugely popular and biting satire of George A. Romero’s The Night Of The Living Dead franchise. What could have turned into a generic man vs. beast yarn is instead gracefully spun into a fable of a family fighting against fantastical events and ridiculous odds to save a loved one, all tied together with hilarious and nail biting set pieces.
Bong manages to instil his film with a poetic nature despite the fact that it is technically a balls-out monster movie, and he brings the quintessential Korean sensibilities to the proceedings, with The Host displaying a directorial talent that manages to stand tall with the likes of other popular Korean directors such as Park Chan-wook. Stand-out moments, such as the finale, have a ballet-like movement to them that is added to by the cinematography with a haze of orange fog that frames the combatants as they dodge around the monster as all come together to beat it down. This and the opening sequence are two memorable scenes of the 119 minute run-time which is continually peppered with outrageous moments of random humour (such as a biohazard-suited scientist falling over in the background) or scenes of tragedy (not everyone you expect will make it to the end credits).
The acting is as equally controlled. Moments of tragedy are dealt with softly with a clear skilful resonance, especially with Song Kang-ho, who manages to flit between over wrought comedy grief and well-handled human emotion, dodging the easy pitfall of tumbling into the gargling depiction of slapstick comedy fool; there is a depth there that will eventually be tapped into later in the film. Along with Bong Joon-ho, the two manage to form a believable character arc for the central lead of Gang-du, which is funny and touching.
The other family members are also well acted – the performances instantly ingraining a personality into each character from the first few seconds each character is on screen. This is a credit that must also be shared with the script writer, who has managed to create a family unit that is so opposing that they somehow fit together due to their wildly different attitudes and witty banter. It fails to bore or come across as simple jargon dialogue to further the plot.
The Host manages to tower above some of the monster/horror movie effects seen today.
One important part within the monster movie genre will always be the special effects. While acting and directorial talent should always be within the foreground, no matter what levels of believability are achieved, they can instantly become washed away once a dull creature capers onto screen and ruins all the fun. While not reaching the CGI levels we are treated to these days with the likes of Avatar, The Host still manages to tower above some of the monster/horror movie effects seen today. The lank wet appendages of the creature slime across characters faces with a level of realism that will usually cause a group sigh of disgust amongst the viewing audience – a must reaction with any successful monster movie (there should always be the ‘ick’ factor when the monster comes onto the screen).
With a steady stream of action, horror and humour all masterfully laced together in the controlled hands of Bong, The Host is a highly entertaining tale that will please most viewers whether they be monster movie fanatics or not. Just be prepared for a mixture of emotions and a rather unconventional ending.
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