The Host (Magnolia Pictures, R)

thehost2It may not sound like much, but a slow accumulation of this attention to detail and knowing of the world that the monster lives in amounts to what will likely be the most solid monster movie I see in my lifetime.

 

thehost

Ever since its debut in the Director's Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival last year, Bong Joon-ho's Korean monster movie The Host has been garnering near-impossible comparisons, with everyone saying that it is on par with the best ever, such as Alien or Jaws. And while I wholeheartedly agree (in fact, I'd go so far as to say it's a better film, but the issue here is probably that it is more my type of film that Alien or Jaws), this comparison fails to make clear that The Host is a lot more of a fun ride than its predecessors, and that it deftly mixes genres instead of wallowing in the thriller/horror thing that most other successful monster movies have.

As The Host begins, an American Army doctor stationed in Korea has his Korean assistant dump a whole lot of formaldehyde down the drain, which winds up in the Han River. The film then cuts to a few years down the line, when a couple of fishermen (filmed in long shot, so you never see what they're talking about) find a tadpole-looking thing in the river, that is horribly deformed ("How many tails does that thing have?"). Again, the film cuts to a few years later, where the main plot takes place, as the monster is fully grown and occasionally comes out of the river to eat people. What sets the tone for the movie early on (aside from the hero's first scene involving him sleeping on the job with change sticking to his face) is that Bong isn't coy about showing the monster-all of the touchpoints that The Host has been compared to don't really reveal the monster in all of its glory until the end of the film, instead making due with drippy, foreboding appendages creeping into the frame, and things of that nature. The Host, on the other hand, shows the whole goddamn monster running around terrorizing people about ten minutes into the film's running time.

The creature, while maybe not as sweet looking as the alien in Alien or the original King Kong or Godzilla for their respective times, is not stupid and disappointing, either, which is in and of itself very difficult to pull off to the super-jaded monster movie fans of today (The Orphanage and WETA are both credited with the monster's design and the film's special effects, so the nice result isn't that surprising). But the thing that really makes The Host the masterpiece that it is is its deft combination of being very funny, very exciting, and at least a little scary. The heroes are all bumbling and incompetent enough to be believable, but nice and humorous enough to be worth rooting for. And that's not even making mention of the fact that the film's cultural satire is dead-on-aside from obvious conceits such as the American Army doctor in the beginning being the person at fault for the whole ordeal, there are lots of nice, small touches, such as how, at a mass memorial for all of the people the monster ate its first time out of the river, in the background an intercom system informs the grieving people in attendance that there is an illegally parked car in the parking lot that needs to be moved. It may not sound like much, but a slow accumulation of this attention to detail and knowing of the world that the monster lives in amounts to what will likely be the most solid monster movie I see in my lifetime. | Pete Timmermann

 

http://www.hostmovie.com/ 

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