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Capone Gets Into THE HOST!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. During last year's Chicago Film Festival in October, there were two showings of a movie that may single-handedly usher in a new kind of scary movie on our shores (assuming anybody goes to see it). At its core, South Korea's THE HOST is a monster movie, but the secret of why it succeeds only partially has to do with its hideously realized creature. In truth, THE HOST is a heartfelt and funny family drama disguised as a monster movie epic, and it is these distinctly human qualities that make the icky stuff so cool. Not to underplay the fantastic scares this film delivers, but it wouldn't mean as much to us if we didn't care so much about the people this mutant creature was terrorizing. Director and co-writer Joon-ho Bong (who also directed the powerful serial killer procedural MEMORIES OF MURDER) shows us he's not just comfortable in any genre; he's downright formidable. The film opens in classic monster movie fashion with an evil autopsy doctor ordering his underling to pour gallons of toxic formaldehyde down the drain and into the water supply somewhere near Seoul, South Korea. The hilarious twist here is that the doctor is American, and the setting for this event is a U.S. military base in South Korea. You can always count on the Americans to screw things up. But by making this distinction, Bong is leaving many elements of his film open to interpretation. The chemicals in the water result in the creation of a giant monster that looks like a mutated fish or lizard or something that can breathe underwater and on land. And while the director never explicitly says so, this monster could represent all sorts of things, the same way Godzilla was delivered unto the world as a warning about the harmful effects of atomic weapons. Is THE HOST's creature meant to represent America or the Iraq War or capitalism or tourists or corporate greed? Ultimately, it doesn't matter, but it's still fun to think about and it adds some socio-political weight to the film. The real stars of the film are the three generations of the Park family, a fractured group living in Seoul who band together when the creature takes the youngest member of the family and stores her away for future eating. The first clue that THE HOST is unlike so many other monster movies is that the creature appears right at the beginning of the film, in broad daylight. Bong is not interested in hiding his creation, or parceling stolen looks until a big reveal near the end. Nope, he wants us to become overly familiar with his freakish being, every slimy scale, fin, tail and other unidentifiable appendages. If anything, we see less and less of the monster as the film goes on and as the family's story to find the little girl takes over. The suspense comes more from anticipating the creature's return. But when it attacks, it is quick and ferocious. Although the monster does eat humans, THE HOST is largely a bloodless affair, with a few choice exceptions. Even when the monster is on screen, it's not always in the foreground. Often, large groups of people are running from it, and while the fleeing masses are in the foreground, you catch glimpses of the beast as it closes in on them from behind. The effect is awesome and terrifying. As easy as it would be to draw parallels between THE HOST and Japanese horror flicks like GODZILLA, the comparisons don't quite hold up. First of all, there's no Raymond Burr. But more importantly, the emphasis on the dysfunctional family attempting to mend its differences and become closer makes this film more akin to JAWS or SIGNS or POLTERGEIST. I don't draw these comparisons lightly; I firmly believe that THE HOST stands right there with some of the great monster offerings in recent years, and, yes, I cringe at the thought of a possible remake from Universal. But if any studio has a strong history with monster movies, it's that one. Let's hope they don't forget what makes this movie stand out from the pack. Don't clutter the remake with attractive teens or hunky heroes. The original has neither. A big part of what makes THE HOST so perfect is the anti-hero nature of all of the leads. This is one of those films you'll probably have to seek out, folks, but it will be well worth your effort.


Readers Talkback
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  • March 9, 2007, 10:12 a.m. CST


    by Brody77

    Just bought this here in the UK, watching it tonight - looks tremendous!

  • March 9, 2007, 10:17 a.m. CST

    Can't wait to watch this!

    by Double-Oh

    Looks like another gem from South Korea.

  • March 9, 2007, 10:20 a.m. CST

    really Fuckin A'

    by Scenester_Intern55

    This movie looks epic...can't wait to seek a peek...Monster looks awesome as well

  • March 9, 2007, 10:21 a.m. CST

    Sounds cool

    by Turd Furgeson

    There are some cool ass films coming up...

  • March 9, 2007, 10:27 a.m. CST

    You can always count on the Americans...

    by ldm882

    to screw things up? Thanks...

  • March 9, 2007, 10:31 a.m. CST


    by Romoehlio

    and i`ve seen it! great movie. the scene where the little girl tries to jump off the monster is magnificent! and the ending is pitch perfect. so much tradgedy and sadness, but still beautifull.refreshingly un-hollywood-like.

  • March 9, 2007, 10:35 a.m. CST

    I caught this on DVD and

    by emeraldboy

    I thought it was Ok. Moves along at a really swfit pace. Its one of those films where if you have seen the trailer you have seen the moive. kind of. Americans are so arrogant, thought and i liked the what if element to the story. Over all though i thought it was disappointing.

  • March 9, 2007, 10:35 a.m. CST

    I caught this on DVD and

    by emeraldboy

    I thought it was Ok. Moves along at a really swfit pace. Its one of those films where if you have seen the trailer you have seen the moive. kind of. Americans corps are so arrogant, though and i liked the what if element to the story. Over all though i thought it was disappointing.

  • March 9, 2007, 10:35 a.m. CST

    I caught this on DVD and

    by emeraldboy

    I thought it was Ok. Moves along at a really swfit pace. Its one of those films where if you have seen the trailer you have seen the moive. kind of. Americans corps are so arrogant, though and i liked the what if element to the story. Over all though i thought it was disappointing.

  • March 9, 2007, 10:42 a.m. CST

    saw this at the viennale

    by sevl

    in october. it's awesome. obscure story, but great characters, some really funny stuff and some good scares. and who cares if the cgi is meh, it's a monster movie

  • March 9, 2007, 11:02 a.m. CST

    pouring the toxic by american doc was true scandal

    by AvengingFist

    It was based on a big scandal in Korea. American mortician Albert McFarland at US army base in Korea ordered the pouring of toxic waste into the sewers.

  • March 9, 2007, 11:05 a.m. CST

    link to the pouring of toxic waste by Albert McFarland

    by AvengingFist

  • March 9, 2007, 11:10 a.m. CST

    Saw this already and it mixed comedy and horror well

    by JohnnyS2

    It had it's shocking moments, heartfelt moments, and funny moments. The tearful fight between the family at the beginning was downright hilarious...hopefully intentionally.

  • March 9, 2007, 11:46 a.m. CST

    Even the New Yorker Likes It...

    by tonagan

    Just read Anthony Lane's review. Nifty.

  • March 9, 2007, 12:46 p.m. CST

    hmm i wonder if emeraldboy caught the DVD...

    by captainCAPSLOCK

    remind me again, didn't see it posted enough ;) i saw this on my computer without subtitles but could still follow it pretty good. i'll have to wait till the end of the month, when it screens here.

  • March 9, 2007, 12:51 p.m. CST

    yeah i have the host on dvd

    by LarryTheCableGuy

    it rocks so hard youll forget indiana labeuf or bat gyllenhaal or die hard with a mac or star jar binks ever existed. tentacles!!!!

  • March 9, 2007, 12:52 p.m. CST

    well written

    by LarryTheCableGuy

    super funny slapstick, great creature fx and not everyone you think lives. anyone who says different is off drugs.

  • March 9, 2007, 12:53 p.m. CST

    I've seen it too

    by BeatsMe

    It's a fun quirky little movie, but quickly in danger of being overhyped by fanboys. It's not scary at all, and that's coming from someone who's kind of a wimp about that stuff. But it is funny and oddly touching, worth a look. Just keep your expectations on planet Earth.

  • March 9, 2007, 2:51 p.m. CST

    I saw this last year...

    by Alonzo Mosely

    It is a fun little movie, but I am amazed how much it is getting overhyped, because there will be an inevitable backlash, because it is by no means great...<p> The monster stuff is good, the family stuff is good, and it makes some very non-Hollywood decisions (but then why shouldn't it, it's Korean).<p> Despite all that it certainly isn't good enough to be classed with Jaws, hell it wasn't even the best Korean movie I saw that week...

  • March 9, 2007, 2:59 p.m. CST

    I saw it on DVD, alright

    by emeraldboy

    Along with the Departed during the week. I hate when Fanboys over hype movies or When one posts an opinion that is out sync to the rest. The host is a swift little film. Though one review i read on the cover of dvd compared this to jaws. one said it was magnificent. that is pushing it a bit.

  • March 9, 2007, 3:16 p.m. CST

    I should clarify a point

    by emeraldboy

    I made. Everyone has different opinions on different films. Not everyone is going to like a movie. I am very wary of posters in the cinema which are blasted with postitve reviews. I cant really understand the hate regarding little miss sunshine. If that movie prevented eddie from getting his oscar then fine. I think the stench from his box office bomb Norbit will harm shrek three. As will the fact that it stars Mike Myers and justin timberlake. People will see Murphys name and just stay away.

  • March 9, 2007, 4:11 p.m. CST

    remember how the best part of Dawn of the Dead remake

    by future help

    was the first 20 mins.? well...same goes with the Host.

  • March 9, 2007, 5:09 p.m. CST

    Americans are the villains in this, eh?

    by CreasyBear

    We make perfect villains. Why can't we be socially conscious like African warlords, peaceful like Middle Eastern terrorists, environmentally friendly like South American clear-cutters, or polite like the soccer rioters in most every other country on the globe? I mean, what is our PROBLEM?!

  • March 9, 2007, 5:43 p.m. CST

    I have this film...

    by joeyjojojrshabadoo

    I bought it a while back with english subtitles. It's a great Comedic Horror flick. It does stand up there with some of the greats!!!

  • March 9, 2007, 6:28 p.m. CST

    I watched this last night and it sucks

    by Rupee88

    I downloaded it and couldn't even make it through the whole thing. I scanned through the rest of it...very disappointing considering the good reviews on RT.

  • March 9, 2007, 6:59 p.m. CST

    remember how the best part of Dawn of the Dead remake

    by S-Mart shopper

    was the Richard Cheese version of "Down With The Sickness" playing in the elevator, because the rest of the movie was un-note worthy.

  • March 9, 2007, 7:21 p.m. CST

    The hype actually meets the movie on this one

    by Lovecraftfan

    Its sad to see 300 getting all the press while this is released in what two theaters. A wonderful moving, funny, engaging film. Something that works on all cylinders and do it so well.

  • March 9, 2007, 7:44 p.m. CST

    I just got off the phone with a giant mutant newt...

    by Alonzo Mosely

    It said young asians taste the best...

  • March 9, 2007, 8:37 p.m. CST

    I got some BAD news for you, Capone...

    by Triumph poops!

    Regarding the Universal remake, you said "Don't clutter the remake with attractive teens or hunky heroes." Well, sad to say, you can absolutely, positively bet the bank that that's EXACTLY what Hollywood will do. I mean, come on, are you kidding? This is the kind of genre film that dim-witted Hollywood suits can't imagine anyone BUT teenyboppers starring in, since those same suits will likewise figure that's the ONLY audience who will want to see the remake to begin with.<p>In fact, even as we speak, Universal is speed dialing any cast members from the AMERICAN PIE movies who aren't currently working and hauling them in...

  • March 9, 2007, 10:13 p.m. CST

    This Movie is Actually Pretty Bad

    by 12-GAUGE

    The monster looked great but was a ripoff of that thing from The Relic. Never once was the movie really scary or tense. The characters were all flat, and the emotions were forced by too much melodrama and that crappy, overdone string accompaniment that outdoes some of the sappiest stuff from Hollywood. It felt like a Mexican telenovela with a giant slug. And the opening with the American doctor?--He says to dump the chemicals down the drain because: "The Han River is broad, so let's think broadly." Really awful dialogue like that all the way through. Here's the cold hard truth: if this was a straight-up Hollywood film, no one would care as much about this. People lump it into the Korean film movement and wash away all their critical thinking skills as a result. This movie is no where close to ones like Jaws, Alien, The Thing, etc.. It's about as deep as a Monday Night Movie Event on TV, and that just makes it all the more sad that it pretends to have some sort of a deep socio-political point as well. To put the nail on the coffin of this dead horse: the flick is thoroughly unsatisfying.

  • March 10, 2007, 12:53 a.m. CST

    mocky_puppet..nah, no need to do that, just get your

    by Jugs

    troops out of other countries and maybe the world will start to love america again.

  • March 10, 2007, 1:50 a.m. CST

    I have to agree with 12-GAUGE

    by TheNorthlander

    Korean movies always seem to suffer from too much melodrama. They generally have really nice photography and scenography, but they can't do genre films and this is no exception. Seriously, take a look at the scene where they fall apart by Hyun-seo's photo. I thought the monster looked like something that would spawn if The Relic monster raped something from a Tremors sequel, the guy who played Hyun-seo's father looked and played terribly miscast, the part about the bow competing sister that pays off at the end looks nice, but it's not a moment that's really felt nice. It's not the "Luke blows up the death star" moment that it tries to be. The father should have been the one with the bow and arrow, maybe as a failed competitor who practices a lot but nobody appreciates it or realizes he's any good. then he kills the monster. That would have more impact. that arrow slinging sister is gone throughout most of the film anyway, so what is REALLY her purpose as a character? She could easily have been removed.

  • March 10, 2007, 3:10 a.m. CST

    It suffers badly from being overcooked..

    by quantize

    Korean style...OTT sentimental score and a meandering plot that wafts all over the place.. The CGI is pretty darn good and there's a lot to like, but Capone seems to have magically missed the huge flaws which pretty much prevent it from being a classic..

  • March 10, 2007, 4:23 a.m. CST

    Capone HYPES too much

    by TheGhostWhoLurks

    This film AIN'T scary at all (and I get scared watching network broadcasts of Silence of the Lambs). It's a film about a goofy family with (literally) an idiot son as the hero, who fight a cool-looking monster. All of the Americans are evil or fools and characters with IQs over 100 get eaten. It's ABSOLUTELY NOT Jaws, Alien or even Godzilla. It's more like a modern version of Abbott & Costello meet the Gill Man.

  • March 10, 2007, 5:50 a.m. CST

    The User named NORTHLANDER is a huge IDIOT

    by Rambo in the Bronx

    "...Take a look at the scene where they fall apart by Hyun-Seo photograph". That whole scene was meant to be hilarious not serious you idiot. I laughed my ass off during that scene but morons like you probably thought it was supposed to be a serious scene. Go ahead, see if you could find a commentary track on their DVD. You're probably the type of people who watches Monty Python literally and say shit like "This movie is so dumb because they're trying too hard to be serious but it comes off like a comedy". I rest my case.

  • March 10, 2007, 5:59 a.m. CST

    Family breaking down near Photo of the child

    by Rambo in the Bronx

    IS by FAR the best scene in the entire movie. That scene could have existed anywhere from a number of other movies and it would've been brilliant. I never laughed so hard the entire time other than one and then the one where the dude in the yellow hazard suit slips on a pool of blood or something and pretends to play it cool.

  • March 10, 2007, 8:09 a.m. CST

    "if this was a straight-up Hollywood film, no one would

    by reise reise

    care as much about this." That's a dumb explanation for the high praise. A lot of people have praised the movie precisely because it sets itself apart from the average Hollywood blockbuster. And how is it "pretending" to have socio-political content? The movie basically satirizes governmental/military incompetence and misinformation and the allusions to current events and Korean history give it resonance, but it wisely doesn't waste time making concrete political statements. The political stuff is right there if you want to take it but the movie still refrains from bashing you over the head with it. And to those complaining about the portrayal of Americans in this, shut the fuck up and watch the movie. During one of the big action scenes, an American soldier is portrayed in a heroic fashion and it's not like the Korean government gets off any easier. Is is really that offensive if a movie features less than positive portaryals of Americans? It's not like Hollywood hasn't been guilty of the same thing with other groups.

  • March 10, 2007, 8:39 a.m. CST

    I second that one right there!

    by PoweredUpPacman

    And with that, this motion is carried: all hater of this movie should be flogged and fed to rabid penguins! That's right: rabid fucking penguins!!

  • March 10, 2007, 9:09 a.m. CST


    by beb

    I saw this last night and although it does have some great set pieces, it ultimately is dragged down by its length and the ham handed US bashing that appears to want to be politically insightful. SPOILER The ending is also very unsatisfying. Again, the director seems to have been caught up in making some type of serious statement and the movie suffered for that. As far as the sky high rating it is enjoying at Rottentomatoes, I can only assume that the critics were bamboozled by what they thought was an insightful satire. But then critics are never dependable for rating Horror films. The comments from the exiting crowd reminded me of Children of Men. People pulled in by high Rottentomatoes ratings were wondering what the hell happened.

  • March 10, 2007, 9:12 a.m. CST

    TRoops out of other countries

    by beb

    Jugs, When you suggest US troops out of other countries, I assume you mean US troups out of South Korea right? That way they can dismantle their industries and start eating dirt along with their norther cousins. Maybe they should put it to a vote. Yay! No more American oppressors!

  • March 10, 2007, 9:56 a.m. CST

    This movie sucks

    by Filmrage

    I live in Korea and saw the movie on DVD recently and it's pretty lame. The rampaging moster scenes are well done but as a story it's pretty much a B movie. . . . . . . Most Koreans here told me that they see the movie as a metaphore for the corrupting influcence of Korea by America. The young Korans hate the millitary being here and basically see the moster as the bad effect that America is having on Korea. A pretty lame metaphore if you ask me.

  • March 10, 2007, 9:57 a.m. CST

    Just watched it

    by VoxMillennium

    Yes, I agree with 12 Gauge; the movie is way overhyped by Capone. It sort of half succeeds as a funny little slapstick spoof, but the other elements fall flat; the satire is very superficial and too easy. The horror element is laughable, the monster just looks silly. In no way is this movie original and putting it next to movies like Jasw and The Thing is a joke. Watch the Korean movie "Save the green planet"; now thát's a brilliant satire and great genre crossing movie. This is just B-movie stuff at best.

  • March 10, 2007, 10:03 a.m. CST

    It Rocks!

    by jeffff

    This flick was great. I can't wait for Universal to make The Host vs. Alien. Senior's Guide to Computers

  • March 10, 2007, 6:02 p.m. CST

    I liked it a lot...

    by Zardoz

    cool creature, good characters, unconventional story, some really funny dialogue, and some great action scenes. I agree it's being over-hyped, though. And it's not particularly scary, per se, but there are some suspenseful and tense scenes. Lots of interesting stuff in it that I still can't get out of my head. I did enjoy it very much and I'll see it again, just don't go see it and expect the greatest movie ever made...

  • March 10, 2007, 6:34 p.m. CST

    Michael Bay In Korean. Are you guys fucking kidding

    by Lovecraftfan

    You're right cause Michael Bay would surely take time away from the monster to focous on a well developed quartet of characters. Yes I'm sure he would combine genres like that. Ya that sounds just like Bay. Wake up people this is everything that Michael Bay or a conventional monster movie is NOT. I especially loved the ending. Very anti-mainstream with a great climax. I have to wonder if people who call a typical Hollywood film in Korean even saw the movie.

  • March 10, 2007, 6:40 p.m. CST

    Rambo in the Bronx

    by TheNorthlander

    Well to each his own I guess. I laughed my ass off during your attempt at being offensive, so there you have it.

  • March 10, 2007, 7 p.m. CST

    NPR Review of The Host

    by trashotron

    ..with thanks to the AICN crew who helped hook me up with the movie... --Rick Kleffel

  • March 12, 2007, 12:03 p.m. CST

    People are always going to come from

    by ewokstew

    different places on something like this. While I don't get the hate from some of the Talkbacker's on this movie (saw it last night and personally loved it) I had wished for a slightly different ending but was ultimately fine with it. And yeah, I agree with Lovecraftfan, Michael Bay? No, not even remotely.

  • July 25, 2007, 7:32 a.m. CST

    Pure unadulterated garbage, really awful

    by Neil Peart

    I was looking forward to this movie, so I stopped at the store last night and picked it up. I want to know how much the reviewers were paid and/or what they were smoking. I get that it's a Korean movie and not a Hollywood one, I get that the 'breakdown' scene was supposed to be so over the top that it's funny, and I get that the ending was supposed to be the exact opposite of what we've come to expect. That doesn't make this a good movie. I know that we're supposed to be politically correct and openly embrace the differences between our cultures, and I do. But that doesn't mean I'm going to lower my expectations. If someone serves me crap I'm not going to smile and proclaim it the best thing I've ever tasted. I'm going to stand up and say: "Hey! What's the big idea of serving me crap?!" And that's what this movie is: crap.

  • Aug. 8, 2007, 2:06 p.m. CST

    Dear lord

    by DocMHumphrey

    First off, kudos to Neil Peart above me. Greatest progressive rock drummer ever.<br><br>Now on to 'The Host'. I actually bought this film. Now someone kick me. The 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as, the Ain't it Cool News indorsed quote on the front of the DVD, 'on par with Jaws'. My ass.<br><br>This film is an anime cartoon come to life. Plagued by bad translations, cliched characters, and lack of emotion. Yes, I understood the 'jokes' and the over-the-top mourning scene. They were just not funny. The genre bending wasn't a good idea. It just didn't work. It's like eating ketchup on ice cream.<br><br>Wow, a movie that comes from another country with its refreshing cultural differences. Not really. If you've ever watched more than thrity seconds of Pokemon, Dragonball Z, or any other monster oriented Asian cartoon, you have seen the same structure offered up here in 'The Host'.<br><br>There wasn't even any scary scenes at all. Monster attacks (with CGI that looks like it came from Hercules or Xena, maybe even a USA networks TV special from 1995, or maybe an extra episode of 'Thunder in Paradise'). The monster did have an interesting design to it too. The lack of gore made it uninteresting also. For all the chewing the monster does on people, it just drags them back to its layer inside of its mouth or by its tail. Being a huge monster, say bigger than an elephant, an animal that can take in a ton of more of vegitative food a day to stay healthy and to just lounge around, doesn't eat any of its prey until days after it attacks them. It is an extremely active creature, which would suggest a large food intake.<br><br>Sorry to spoil anything here, but no one has questioned the following:<br> <br> The military puts everyone in quaratine. Then seek out the most infected. They let the most infected man stay with his family in general quantine. They let that man keep his cell phone. In a quaratine by the military, they let him keep his cell phone. Then when the daughter calls said phone saying she is alive, no one believes him. Why don't they just check in the incoming call log? Don't know.<br><br>All in all...ok movie...there is a plot...a boring one...a monster that doesn't really do anything...and characters I didn't care about. It's long. It's boring. Most of's not scary. At all.

  • Aug. 9, 2007, 2:12 p.m. CST

    Anti-mainstream ending?

    by DocMHumphrey

    Guess all of you missed it the first time in 'Face/Off'