Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Host (2006)

     It seems like only a half a decade ago that I was roaming about inside the local Blockbuster video when I came across the box for The Host (2006), a mildly praised Korean creature feature.  It looked like it may have been worth seeing, but at the prices the old blue & yellow used to charge, I never took the plunge and actually gave it a chance.  Now, there is no local Blockbuster (there actually is, but it is not very accessible and the idea of driving to and from a store to rent a movie feels a little ridiculous at this point) and the cost to see The Host has dropped to $0.  That made it much easier for me to sit down and watch it.
     I don't think I can give a fair review of The Host, though.  The humor went beyond just not appealing to me; I actually was offended – intellectually, not culturally – by it.  It wasn't just that the humor was juvenile and dependent on the idea that the single father is a total loser (from a family of questionable abilities), but that it stood in an odd contrast to the monster horror that was competing for screen time in the movie. Rather than serve as a counterpoint to the tension of the terror of a beastie running about, the humor undercut the supposed seriousness of the situations and made it harder to simply give a damn about the characters.
     As far as the horror element went, I found it lacking.  The creature is appropriately havoc-inducing when it is introduced to the people on the banks of the Han River, but quickly becomes a beastie that seems to have an agenda.  That would be awesome if it were true, but beasties don't get to have agendas.  So it becomes a monster that has several filler scenes and can't figure out an efficient or logical way of killing the inhabitants of the film world it is destined to kill. 
     I was more than a little surprised by how anti-American the film was, though in a mild way.  The beastie is the result of an American doctor deciding it was a good idea to dump toxic materials down the drain (and thus into the local river).  Then again, there is some heavily implied that there were Koreans who were also complicit in these activities.  An American serviceman is first seen as the supposedly heroic foil to Gang-du (Kang-ho Song), but then becomes a means to introduce a type of panic that results in a government crackdown on the people that is supported by the American military and CDC.  The Americans are not so much concerned with saving any Koreans from the beastie or some sort of plague that may be spread by the beastie as they are in keeping the oppressive regime in charge (and maybe American troops within the country).
     I don't know that I have been as mildly disappointed in a movie as I was with The Host.  I have no idea what the people who gave it high praise were thinking or expecting.  I am not the type to be so easily impressed that a foreign film has a budget of more than $100,000.  While I may be missing out on so much by not being fluent in Korean (though I'm betting that the jokes are largely the same as many rely on the physicality of the scenes), I think that the lack of consistent central tone (humor with shades of horror or horror with shades of humor) make it an inherently flawed movie.

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