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One More HOST Review To Share!!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I love this movie. I’m willing to bet you’ll love this movie. This guy gets it right, big time:

On a rather nice day in South Korea, a crowd of onlookers has gathered along the bank of the Han River. They've gathered to gawk in curious wonder at the slick, black tadpole hanging from the underside of a bridge. They gawk because the tadpole's freakin' huge (for a tadpole). 15 feet easily. Turns out that's not the half of it. The tadpole unfurls to its full length – more than doubling it's size – and dives into the river. It pops out a beast and madness ensues. People die. People make sacrifices. And people sacrifice other people. Yes, this is your first glimpse of "Gwoemul", which doubles as the film's title. Translated, it means Monster. Over here in North America we'll be treated to this film as "The Host", and I mean treated with a capital T. Directed by Bong Joon-Ho, who made the equally awesome Memories of Murder (I dare say the best serial killer movie since Se7en), and starring Song Kang-Ho, who also starred in Memories of Murder (and all kinds of South Korean ass-kickery like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, JSA, and Shiri), these two have taken a genre not often given serious consideration, that of monster-horror, and demand that you respect it. Take the camera work, for instance. There are two very important moments in the film, one involving father and daughter, the other involving father and grandfather, where the camera is key. In both these moments (and I've given you just enough info to spot them but not spoil them) the shots unfold like cinematic sleight-of-hand, using misdirection to have you looking the other way when bam! Bong Joon-Ho lays the perfect visual punch line on you and all you can say is, "I didn't see that coming." See, The Host isn't a monster movie; it's a monster film. The camera work reflects that. And the writing. The humor is black as the Monster (just wait for the Molotov cocktail "hero" moment). Best of all: the fate of characters is not determined by a test screening. It's determined by the mother-f**ing Monster. If he wants to eat the character you've grown attached to, find a new character to grow attached to. This movie does a great job of creating an utter sense of powerlessness in you, that you or I, as a member of the audience, truly do not have any control over the proceedings. Usually I feel pretty safe guessing the outcome of who lives and who dies (and on a good day, in what order). But not with this movie. It takes risks. Credit has to go to the writers for that. The cherry on top of all this: the Monster design is done by WETA. It's a nasty looking creature that swings along aqua ducts head to tail with terrifying animated grace thanks to the guys at The Orphanage (Superman Returns, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, etc.). This isn't a cheap looking monster. I know, as much as I love a man-in-suit monster, I also love to be able to suspend my disbelief. And good effects help me do that. To bring a bit of levity to all this praise, there is one ham-handed scene where the main family's grief at one of their own being eaten is acted out, shall we say, over the top. No, not just over the top. F**ing over the top. Like Jason Biggs' crying scene in Jersey Girl. Or Rip Torn in anything. It just seemed a little out of place. And though I laughed along with everyone else in the theatre cause it was funny, I secretly wished they had gone with the more dramatic route. It could've been such an honest moment. Somebody totally undeserving of their horrible fate had just died! But instead of honesty, we got slapstick. It was taking the easy way out. Especially considering Bong Joon-Ho had no problem going with the drama later on in the movie. Oh right, the movie. I suppose now is a good time to fill you in on the plot. Taken from a real life incident that happened in 2000, where one Albert McFarland, 59-year-old chief of the mortuary at the 8th U.S. Army garrison, instructed his subordinates to dump 227 liters of formaldehyde into the Han River, this movie takes that incident one step further and asks a "what if?" What if such careless heed of the environment could come back and bite us in the ass? (haha, like that could ever happen) Song Kang-Ho plays Park Kang-Du, and to him it's not a "what if?" He finds out first hand what happens when such careless heed is taken. The Monster eats one of his family members. This is bad news #1. In trying to save his family member, he gets the Monster's blood all over him (bad news #2). The government, finding out that Park has come into direct contact with the Monster's blood, quarantines him and lets him know he now has a fatal disease because the Monster is "host" to such a disease (bad news #3). Park then finds out his family member may yet still be alive but he can't do anything about it because he's stuck in quarantine, and of course, time is running out for both of them (bad news #4). I know they say bad news comes in 3's, but Park's having a really bad day. So what does Park do? Well, saying anything more would be spoiling the surprise. "The Host" is making the festival rounds right now. I had the privilege of catching it at the Vancouver International Film Festival and I hope this film gets the wide theatrical release that it deserves. It's really a shame studios seem more intent on buying North American remake rights to great foreign films than just buying the distribution rights to the original film and giving that the release it rightly deserves. So here's to hoping "The Host", in it's original form, gets a wide release. And however you can, get out there to see it. If you post this Harry, call me Sam Koop (yeah, that's actually my name)
Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 7, 2006, 7:27 a.m. CST

    anyone know where to see this in the uk?

    by Spartacus Hughs

    ?

  • Nov. 7, 2006, 8:54 a.m. CST

    Yo Spartacus

    by Cherrysheriff

    I'll be checking it out here. http://www.cornerhouse.org/film/info.aspx?ID=2218&page=0

  • Nov. 7, 2006, 8:57 a.m. CST

    nuts. Bad link. Try this.

    by Cherrysheriff

    http://www.cornerhouse.org

  • Nov. 7, 2006, 9 a.m. CST

    WTF?!?!

    by Drworm2002

    This movie has been around for what, six months. Enough with the reviews. I got a great review for you, it's for Rocky. Not the new one, the first one.

  • Nov. 7, 2006, 9:13 a.m. CST

    Great movie indeed

    by Marsellus

    Saw it two weeks ago at a premiere in Nantes, France. What a film! The script, though pretty simple, is efficient, it's funny/scary/clever/touching. It's like a Hollywood movie made with balls and brains.

  • Nov. 7, 2006, 12:25 p.m. CST

    Can't wait, another Bong Joon-ho classic.

    by Harry Weinstein

    I didn't read the review, or any others. I don't want to know. Magnolia better not fuck up this release. And did AICN utterly fail at getting anybody inside the D-WAR screening at AFM? I want to see what $75 to $150 million dollars worth of "monster smash city" looks like.

  • Nov. 7, 2006, 12:55 p.m. CST

    great flick...

    by Jarek

    Easily the best film i saw at TIFF... and I saw a lot of movies.

  • Nov. 7, 2006, 4:26 p.m. CST

    Nice review.

    by team america

    It's nice to see a well-written review appear on this site for once, considering that it happens so rarely (with the exception of anything written by Vern). As for the movie itself, it sounds great.

  • Nov. 7, 2006, 11:12 p.m. CST

    What's "Rocky"?

    by Bob Cryptonight

    Is that with the moose?

  • Nov. 8, 2006, 10:47 p.m. CST

    If you only knew....

    by onemanarmy

    ...how many awesome film makers and talent is here in South Korea. Yes I'm an American. Yes I'm a movie nut. And I've never lived in another country that I could walk up to a local, ask THEM for a few movies that they think I'd enjoy, and find myself in awe everytime. If this movie is "remade" it will be an insult to everyone involved in making the original.