This post is for the 1001 Movies Club. Go see what others had to say!
The inherently fantastic thing about the 2006 Korean film "The Host" is that it's a stunning return to the good old-fashioned monster movie. It's a lot like "Jaws" with a hint of "District 9" and a good dose of "Cloverfield" as well. In fact, it has so many elements of those movies that it's impossible not to wonder if the latter two were slightly influenced by it. Perhaps?
Anyway! "The Host" begins in the year 2002, showing us how the monster came to be (the classic - irresponsible disposal of dirty formaldehyde into the Han River). Then, four years later, we come upon Gang-Du, a seemingly irresponsible and ever-sleepy man who, along with his father and daughter, run a food stand on the shore of the Han River. Then...you guessed it...THE MONSTER ATTACKS!!! And steals Gang-Du's daughter.
Now, with the help of his brother (an unemployed college grad) and his sister (a famous archer) he must try to save her. Oh and there's this whole thing about a virus that Gang-Du may or may not have that the monster supposedly spreads and the irresponsibility of the Korean government and its failure to address the situation. In the meantime, we also see Hyun-Seo (Gang-Du's daughter) as she tries to survive in the large sewer that the monster has brought her to.
The movie does a pretty okay job in blending laughs and screams. At one minute you'll be laughing and then the next minute be on the edge of your seat in suspense. This mixture of two genres can be a bit confusing (are we supposed to pity or laugh at the Parks' mourning?) but it does create this kind of tongue in cheek attitude to the whole movie that I think is very effective.
There are also so, so many good "sequences" in this movie. For example, when Nam-Joo (Gang-Du's sister) is running through the bridge and into the sewer to attack the monster. It's such an exciting and exhilarating scene, and it's just one of many other exciting and exhilarating scenes that there were in the film. The suspense and tension were perfect - especially in the last thirty minutes of the film when everything starts to come together, in a huge climax. So exciting!
And artistically the movie is great as well - I absolutely LOVED the score and the cinematography was quite fantastic. Additionally, the monster was frightening and very well designed. Since we see it throughout the entire movie it is important that it always scares, and it did.
Where the movie fails is in its overly complicated screenplay. The timing is off a lot in the movie and some scenes drag on for far too long. Additionally, things can begin to get confusing and there are a lot of plot holes. I always have a problem with films (or TV shows) that try to do too much with the story and then fall underneath the weight of their own goals. It's not horribly written by any means, but the loss of focus really takes a bit of "umph" out of the film, which prevented me from really, really loving it.
However! "The Host" is still a really great monster movie, perhaps one of the best I've seen in the genre. Though the story's shortcomings keep it from getting the truly high quality it could have had (and my heart's affection), it has enough amazing and memorable sequences to keep it above the average level of American thriller-comedy-dramas, and it is a LOT of fun to watch. The score was absolutely fantastic and the acting was top-notch as well.
I didn't love it, but I'd watch it again! I bet it would be perfect to watch in a group, on a dark, rainy night...hehe
What did you think of "The Host"? Respond in comments!