EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|HOST, THE (GWOEMUL) (director/writer: Bong Joon-Ho; screenwriters: Chul-hyun Baek/Ha Joon-won; cinematographer: Kim Hyung-koo; editor: ; music: Lee Byeong-woo; cast: Song Gang-ho (Park Gang-du), Byun Hee-bong (Park Hie-bong), Park Hae-il (Park Nam-il), Ko Ah-sung (Park Hyun-seo), Dun-na Bae (Park Nam-ju), Scott Wilson (American boss in a military hospital), Kim Hak-sun (Mr. Kim, Lab worker under Americans); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Kim Hyung-Koo; Magnolia; 2006-South Korea-in Korean and English, with English subtitles)|
|"A pleasant reminder
of the pleasures in the low-budget quickly made monster B-film of the
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho ("Barking Dogs Never Bite"/"Memories of Murder") directs with panache this hybrid horror pic, a pleasant reminder of the pleasures in the low-budget quickly made monster B-film of the 1950s that were both a wild carnival ride for just entertainment purposes and a subversive political telling of the American paranoia during the Cold War. The Host comes across as a cheaply made black comedy featuring a frazzled family brought together by tragic events and a movie trying to pass off as lightly as possible a post-911 allegorical message about the cause of panic over a new disease and the concerns over environment irresponsibility by institutions (which can probably equate to the questionable 'fight against terrorism' that's also spread by the same kind of ignorance) springing from our own corruption and our misinformation from the media that leads us to have uneducated views in dealing with contemporary world problems.
It's mainly a goofy fun film
Godzilla monster on the loose movies, rather than a serious political
film that demands our full attention.
The monster slapstick jokes are the thing here, more than anything else.
The pic is smartly written by
the director, Chul-hyun Baek
Joon-won, and it became South Korea’s
all-time box-office champ. An
American remake is set for 2010 (ugh!!!).
At a US military base morgue,
the arrogant American
military officer (Scott Wilson) orders his reluctant Korean lab assistant
Hak-sun) to dump toxic wastes (contaminated
formaldehyde bottles) into
Seoul's Han River. Years later
a mutant grows into a giant fast moving silvery amphibian monster, who
one day emerges from the river to attack the beach onlookers (the monster equated with a Korea that's
polluted by America, that uses it as a dumping ground). The creature carries off its victims to
the sewers and one of the vics is the uniform-wearing 11-year-old
middle-school girl Park Nam-il (Ko Ah-sung), which causes her dysfunctional family to try and rescue her
after receiving a cell phone call from her that she's alive. But they
are detained in a quarantine by the rigid
military because the government says that they are infected by an
unidentified virus spread by the host monster. The girl's oafish
father, Gang-du (Song
Gang-ho), is a loser
with a problem staying awake, who works in his hard working widowed
Hee-bong) riverbank foodstand. Gang-du goes off his nut in an emotional fit when
he can't explain to the dismissive authorities his little girl is alive
in a sewer under a famous bridge named after a priest and gets even
nuttier when he learns the virus doesn't exist and the mad Americans
still want to drill a hole in his head to take out the virus. So the
distraught dad escapes detainment along with his father, his national
archery bronze medal winning sister (Dun-na Bae) and his surly college educated but deadbeat
unemployed salaryman uncle (Park Hae-il), and searches for his little girl.
The Park family learn the hard way that
they can't count on the government to tell the truth, that
working-class stiffs are treated with no respect by the high-handed
authorities and the public is never told the truth about the virus. The
Americans are depicted as duplicitous in this tragic incident, since
the new democracy in Korea is subservient to American opinion and the
South Koreans get their marching orders from the Yanks.
It's an entertaining popcorn movie, that
gets its feet wet through its freakout special effects for its monster
and its sympathetic look at a troubled but basically honest Korean
family not under the thumb of the haughty Americans. It serves
effectively as a richly provocative satire on monster movies and contemporary
society, and becomes better than your average inane Hollywood monster
movie because it can cleverly relate its monster to the misplaced
geopolitics of the real world in trying to deal with everything from
oil spills to SARS to fighting terrorism.
REVIEWED ON 8/10/2010 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ