Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

The Host

The Host
Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong and Ko A-sung

Rated: R  for creature violence and language
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 9, 2007 Released by: Magnolia Pictures

In Korean with English subtitles, The Host is a wild, wacky, and surprisingly moving horror-thriller. It's more than a contemporary, sardonic turn on classic monster cinema from the Far East, like "Godzilla."

Director Bong Joon-ho fashions an effective politically-treated allegory with familial trust and honor at its center, though many will find it hard not to keep themselves from laughing. That's once a grisly, slimy, enormous catfish-like creature makes its way from a river-front area.

That's where Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) toils for his father (Byun Hee-bong) in a small food enterprise. The fatherly slacker is barely watching his pubescent daughter Hyun-seo (Ko A-sung) when said creature with prehensile tail and feet snatch her, among other unfortunate denizens.

The script, collaborated on by Joon-ho and two others has Gang-du pulling together the family to get Hyun-seo back. The conflict comes from the U.S. military, believing a virus to spread among the family and and rest of a potentially infected Korea. Of course, Gang-du can't accept the idea of a quarantine.

There are B-movie scalings here, but something more here when it comes to another dysfunctional clan. Chemical pollution is the cause of what could be ecologically devastating, from the prologue. Alerting the public with an "Agent Yellow", the military has no qualms with eliminating anyone or thing, besides the creature itself, who may spread the virus. Without finding out what health reports may be, many of the residents feel the need to keep a surgical mask on.

The tension between rebellious cynicism and pompous authoritative might has a crispness here that is wry and realistic. At the same time as one realizes the implication of the mayhem from a mutation, Gang-du emerges as a tragic hero. And, Kang-ho's performance is one of detail, going well beyond the droll and burlesque early on, as intrepid as the trepidation he feels with a grieving family.

Joon-ho demonstrates much aplomb with his crew in making the creature effects very innovative, while it projects a dark glee. Yes, The Host isn't that snappily paced, yet it has over-the-top and explosive sequences that strangely holds one in its grasp of heartbreak and hysteria. While it has the poking amusement of a B-movie in its heydey.

  Frank Chris Tony Jim Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Host       B+       B+

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