Spring Cleaning in the Studio
Art, Escapism, and Despair
Folds and Fabric in Art
A Gift from the Netherworld
News for February!
The HostMovie Review
by Georgette Tan
Genre: Action / Drama / Sci-Fi / Comedy
Director: Joon-Ho Bong
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Byeon Hie-bong, Park Hae-il , Bae Du-na, Ko Ah-sung.
When was the last time you saw a really good monster movie? (No, Eragon doesn't count.)
Slow-witted Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) works at a food stand by the banks of the Han River together with his father Hee-bong (Byeon Hie-bong). The only thing that stimulates Gang-du's interest is his daughter Hyun-Seo (Ko Ah-sung). When she returns from school, they retreat into the shack to watch Gang-du's sister Nam-Joo (Bae Du-na) compete in an archery competition on TV.
Gang-du is sent out of the shack to correct a customer's order. When off delivering it, he is attracted to a crowd of people pointing at a strange thing hanging under a bridge. There is much speculation over what it may be, and the creature slips into the water but hovers nearby.
Gang-du throws in a can of beer, which it claims with its tail, much to everyone's delight. Being purely Asians, everyone starts throwing random junk food into the water and recording the spectacle with their mobile phones.
This apparently doesn't make the creature very happy because it pops out of the water some distance down and begins a rampage. Chaos ensues.
What's rather fascinating here is that they allow you to see the monster coming at you from a distance instead of letting your first impression be the standard cheap shock. Different, but effective. It sandwiches you in that moment where you can't decide whether to stay and get a good look or turn and run like hell.
Anyway, the monster's rampage ends when it grabs hold of Hyun-Seo and drags her underwater with it, despite Gang-du's fruitless attempts to save her.
During the mass mourning, we are introduced to Hyun-Seo's educated but unemployed uncle Nam-il (Park Hae-il). We also learn that the government is treating the creature as a carrier of some mysterious epidemic because one of the survivors who was bitten shows odd symptoms. This is where the monster gets branded as a host.
When Gang-du receives a panicked phone call from his daughter, the entire family escapes the authorities to go hunt for her.
It doesn't take very long for you to notice that the Americans are getting blamed for everything and the Korean government is sweeping things under the carpet as ordered. The only people getting anything done here is the everyday Joe (or should I say, the everyday Park), who rise above their personal issues and dysfunctional family for one common purpose - saving one of their own.
Everything about this movie is unexpected, including the ending.
This surprise hit from Korea puts together a compelling and tightly-woven plot with the visual magic of Weta Workshop (King Kong, The Lord of the Rings) and The Orphanage (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Sin City).
It's hard to say what creature the monster originally was. It has the mouth of a parasitic worm, various appendages sticking out of it, and runs on two legs. The best feature has to be the tail, which allows it creepy acrobatic grace under bridges. Certainly something you won't catch Godzilla doing!
The interesting thing is that this is based on the classic what-if, springing from real life events. In 2000, a military civilian employee ordered his Korean subordinate to dispose formaldehyde into the sewer system leading to the Han River.
No mutant creature has yet emerged from the Han River, but if you see something lurking under the water, don't linger. Turn and run like hell, idiots.
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