Sunday, March 16, 2014

THE HOST (2006)

Appearing two years before CLOVERFIELD, it's reasonable to argue that THE HOST kicked off the modern-day kaiju craze that will lead, in two months, to either a triumphant GODZILLA or a disappointed me.  I loved the hell out of this when I initially saw it, but years have passed and a rewatch seems like a good idea.  We begin with a lab assistant dumping what look to be kegs of formaldehyde down the drain by the order of his salty American supervisor.  

Incompetence is a major theme of THE HOST and the whole thing kicks off with a Korean kowtowing to his bossy American boss.  The formaldehyde presumably ends up mutating a fish in the Han River, which will be somewhat important later.  But, for now, we switch to the Park family, where bumbling Gang-Du takes naps at work and tries hard to connect with his daughter Hyun-seo.  Our two storylines collide when the giant monster hits land and does a bunch of people in and also kidnaps Hyun-seo.

THE HOST slices into authority with a fierce satirical edge.  There's the mentioned depiction of Americans as loud, short-sighted boors.  But Korean officials don't fare much better.  After the monster attacks, they round up survivors and victims' families into a building for mass grieving.  But, when the families demand answers, the first response is to send a guy in a spacesuit and (incorrectly) suggest that the news will have all the answers.  The second response is to panic and start grabbing people.

I lurve the scene in which Korean doctors are hurriedly turning on all their medical equipment before the Americans get there, just like the old Monty Python sketch.  It's a fine example of the film's concern with fumbling behavior, but also displays how funny THE HOST gets at times.  The movie's a good mix of big-beast horror, family drama, and comedy that's way funnier than stuff like BAD MILO (don't get me started).  It's pretty difficult to mix all of that disparate material into a cohesive narrative, but THE HOST does a pretty nice job of it.  There are a few instances of the movie's missteps when it comes to weaving together scenes with different goals, but overall everything's fairly well-balanced.

Even if you can cast some stones at the film as a narrative, it's pretty much unimpeachable as far as technical filmmaking is concerned.  Composition, lighting, and integration of digital effects are all super-solid here and THE HOST basically functions as a master class as far as the raw elements of movies go.  

As a giant monster movie, it gives its monster a decent amount of screen time, certainly much more than the stars of MONSTERS get.  I remember a lot of buzz about how well the thing in THE HOST turned out and it's still a pretty good ambassador for digital effects.  The movie as a whole holds up, too.  It's not a game-changer or anything, but it's still a worthwhile watch.


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