Directed by: Bong Joon-ho (Flanders’ Dog, Memories of Murder)
Starring: Song Kang-ho (Lady Vengeance, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), Byeon Hie-bong (Memories of Murder, Flanders’ Dog), Park Hae-il (Memories of Murder, Waikiki Brothers), Bae Du-na (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Flanders’ Dog), Ko Ah-sung
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2000, an American military commander at Yongsan Camp in Korea orders
his Korean subordinate to dump 450 bottles of chemicals down the drain
which leads directly to the Han River. Six years later, the immature
and incompetent Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) watches in horror as a
large mutant creature emerges from the Han River and goes on a rampage,
eating dozens of bystanders along the banks and abducting Gang-du’s
young daughter, Hyun-seo (Ko Ah-sung), right in front of his very eyes.

her dead, Gang-du is informed by the military that the creature is the
carrier of a deadly virus, and any persons who have come into contact
with it are now infected and must submit themselves to treatment. So
Gang-du and the rest of his estranged family are rounded up and put
into quarantine. That night, Gang-du is shocked when he gets a phone
call from his daughter, who is still alive and is being kept in a large
sewer somewhere.

Despite initial fears, Korea’s first annual "Running of the Big Ass Salmon"
proved to be every bit as popular as Pamplona’s "Running of the Bulls."

it’s a race against time as Gang-du his family must band together and
rescue the girl, but in standing in their way is a vicious and hungry
beast, as well as the combined forces of the Korean and United States
military establishments.


The Host
is a solid family drama mixed with a kidnapping film that just happens
to feature a giant mutated monster as the antagonist. One would think
that all these various elements would add up to a schizophrenic and
jumbled mess, but in actuality they all blend together quite well, and
the film is thoroughly enjoyable throughout. Director/co-writer Bong
Joon-ho balances everything perfectly, managing to perfectly keep
everything afloat, without ever once allowing any of the disparate
parts overwhelm the whole. Nothing in the film ever feels out of place
or erratic, and therefore the dramatic scenes are powerful and moving,
the horror remains shocking, the quiet family moments feel poignant and
heartfelt, and the comedy is effectively funny. The film has been
compared to Jaws, and while it never quite reaches the heights of that
classic, the comparison is somewhat apt. The Host
feels like vintage Spielberg in the sense that it tells the story of an
average, everyday family who find themselves caught up in a fantastic
situation, and it works.

The first thing that viewers will notice is how good the film looks. Despite a relatively low budget ($11,000,000 or so), The Host
is a very well-made and excellently shot film, and much of the credit
belongs to cinematographer Kim Hyung-ku and director of lighting Lee
Kang-san, as well as editor Seon Min Kim. The film was gorgeously shot
and masterfully edited, and it can easily rival a lot of the big budget
Hollywood films that have been released in recent years. Director Bong
Joon-ho deserves tobe very proud of himself and his crew for what they
accomplished, because The Host is obviously the work of some very talented and knowledgeable individuals.

Unsurprisinly, proved
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Because The Host
focuses on the family rather than the monster, the performances are
absolutely integral to the film. Therefore, the film’s cast also
deserves a lot of credit, for without their earnest and sincere
performances, the film would have sunk. Everyone in the film does a
superb job of conveying the sense of turmoil and chaos that the
creature has caused this poor, unsuspecting family. They are a real
family with real problems, but their love for one another is made
explicit by their actions and emotions rather than through words. Thus
their predicament is made all the more powerful. Song Kang-ho anchors
the film with an excellently nuanced performance, and his character is
at once comical, pitiful, and heartbreaking. He perfectly conveys the
helpless agony of a man who wants nothing more than to rescue his
daughter from harm, but is blocked from this goal by both the military
and a ferociously clever mutant monster.

Special mention must
also be made of Byung-woo Lee’s delightful score, which ranges from
playfully comical to tersely suspenseful. The original music perfectly
captures the mood in every scene, and it manages to keep up with the
various tonal shifts that occur throughout the film. Best of all,
though, it remains unobtrusive, and it never becomes emotionally
manipulative or informs the viewer of how he or she should feel.

visual effects are decent, but not great, and may really be the film’s
only weak link. This is not to say that they’re bad, because the
effects are very well-done, just that they are not on the same level as
everything else in the movie. The creature, designed by Jang Hee-Chul,
is highly original, and it is fairly well-realized by San Francisco
based VFX group The Orphanage. For the most part, the creature was
integrated into the live-action footage quite well, but it never quite
blends in seamlessly, especially at the climax. There’s also a scene
involving fire that looks like it was taken right out of a PS2 game.
Thankfully, though, these moments are few, and they never really take
the viewer out of the movie.

Spike Jonze’s initial concept for Wax’s "Southern California"
video was a tad different than the final product.

All in all, The Host
is an engrossing, engaging, and massively entertaining film that
manages to strike the perfect balance between drama, horror, and comedy.


picture is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, and the transfer is
gorgeous. The image is nice and clear, the colors are vibrant, and the
film looks absolutely gorgeous. Most of the monster sequences occur in
broad daylight, but even the night scenes are well-lit and everything
comes through brilliantly.

The sound is offered in 5.1 or 2.0
Dolby Digital, and you can choose between the original Korean language
track, and a pretty ridiculous English language dub. Beware, though;
the disc defaults to the English dub. At any rate, the sound mix is
excellent, and the piercing roars of the creature and the bang of the
numerous shotgun blasts are bound to give your surround sound system a
decent workout.

Unfortunately, no one on the set of The Host noticed
the ninja until it was entirely too late.


set is LOADED. In addition to the film, Disc One features a number of
deleted and extended scenes, an informative and lively director’s
commentary, and a short featurette entitled “Director Bong Joon-Ho’s
Reflections,” in which director Bong Joon-ho basically apologizes to
everyone in Korea for the hardships they were put through during
filming of The Host. There are also trailers for Dynamite Warrior, Severance, and The Signal that play before the movie.

Disc Two, you get butt-load of behind-the-scenes information, all of
which are broken down into separate chapters. You can watch them all
individually, or click the “Play All” option and watch them all in
order. These include a making-of doc, featurettes on the design and
creation of the creature, and information about the cast and crew.
There’s also a short gag reel that mainly consists of a few outtakes
and some crudely animated figures dancing. After that is a short
feature in which the cast and crew bid good-bye to the production, and
to cinematographer Lee Kang-san, who passed away shortly after the film
wrapped. Finally, you can watch all of the original Korean trailers for
The Host.

Sadly, the video game adaptation of The Host proved
to be a bit of a letdown in the graphics department.


The Host is not just a great monster movie, but it’s just a damn fine film all around.

The Movie – 8/10 The Disc – 9/10