Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Host (Gwoemul)

by Nick
I really love Asian films. I think it's the cinematography that gets me, mostly.

One of the hardest genres in cinema has to be the monster movie. Seriously, considering the output, and how little is good, it's gotta be a bitch to make one that is actually worth watching. Try to count them up the good ones in my head, and I get Godzilla. And that's not good.

The Host is one of recent years biggest box-office successes in South-Korea. Probably one of the more expensive ones, too. And it's a good monster movie. One of those rare things, a foreign blockbuster.

Directed by Bong Joon-Ho (Memories of Murder), there's a lot to love about this film. Like his last film, the horror and thriller elements are masterfully done, and the performances, mainly from Kang-Ho Song (Memories of Murder) and Ah-Sung Ko as his daughter, are an amazing mix of naiveté, sorrow and humour. Incredible for being credible. The first third of this film propels the film forward at an exhilirating pace.

Like Memories of Murder, though, it has some uneven narrative problems. There are places that drag, some unnecessary back and forth-ing, more than one cliché and a third act device so silly I didn't know whether to giggle or groan.

But what gets me is that it's gripping. I cared about what happened to the family at the focus of the film, a family struck hard by the monster. And the monster itself was nice. There are times you stop thinking "oooo, nice fx" and start thinking "eeew, creepy" or just plain "fucking hell".

A story about the sacrifices a family is willing to do for their loved ones, it's a film I can recommend to almost anyone. While there are clichés and some bad plotting, there's a core that's good enough to withstand it. But don't forget to bring the popcorn.


Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

I don't know what your definition of "monster movie" is, but in addition to Godzilla (I assume you're not talking about the travesty that was released in the U.S., patching in Raymond Burr, or the atrocious Matthew Broderick remake), I would add King Kong (the original), Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein (the James Whale versions) and Alien.

12/06/2006 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

My definition would be one where a monster has an important role.

(I assume you're not talking about the travesty that was released in the U.S., patching in Raymond Burr, or the atrocious Matthew Broderick remake)

I'm actually thinking of both of those :D Haven't seen the Japanese original.

But those you mentioned definitely count as good. Slither was also fun, even if it didn't take itself very seriously.

Then there's stuff like D-War.

12/06/2006 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

I haven't seen the Japanese original either (but I believe it is available on DVD now).

12/06/2006 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

It is on DVD--under it's original title, Gojira. I think I'll have to pop that up toward the top of my Netflix queue.

12/06/2006 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

I saw the Japanese original a few years ago when Rialto did a theatrical reissue. Very surprising film to me, because it's so serious. Grim, even. I was expecting some schlocky monster movie, but despite the low-grade production design and acting I don't think that's what it is at all.

That didn't stop a group a few rows in front of me from laughing the whole way through like it was MST3K. Almost made me violent.

As for The Host, will see it if it comes around. I know Magnolia has signed up to distribute it here, but local release plans seem somewhere between "maybe" and "unlikely".

12/06/2006 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Count Olaf said...

Last good monster movie I saw was probably Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des loups). It kind of falls apart at the end once the monster is revealed and the "hero" goes all stealth-ninja, but it's a fun ride...and a little freaky in theaters.

12/06/2006 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

The Host comes really close to falling apart at the end, but manages to save itself, and turns out to be quite moving.

IMDb gives it a March 9 limited release date. Would be dumb of them not to release it. Has the same potential of Oldboy and Battle Royale. Even if it isn't that good, it comes close in a few instances.

Otherwise, you could always buy it on DVD.

12/06/2006 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger LesterG said...

I picked up the import of this the other day but haven't had time for it yet. I'm still discovering the North Korean film scene but I've really enjoyed what I've seen out of guys like Bong Joon-Ho, Hong Sang Soo and (of course) Park Chan-Wook so far.

Magnolia is releasing this stateside, which essentially means it's doomed. Cuban and Co. have great taste but a complete inability to market anything properly. Even when they get a film with some legitimate heat (like Jesus Camp) they drop the ball.

12/06/2006 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Let me know what you thought of it, Les. Is it the Limited edition you got? Would love to know if it's worth buying.

Hong Sang Soo, ain't my cup of tea, though. Nice to look at, but too arty without the substance. I'm mostly fascinated with how they bend genres.

12/06/2006 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger lesterg said...

Nick, the import place I go to only had one version available for now. It's movie-only (single disc).

I'm hoping to pick up an import of Noriko's Dinner Table next. The idea of watching a three-hour/bat-shit insane prequel to Suicide Circle is exciting.

12/13/2006 03:52:00 PM  

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