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Friday, October 25, 2019

Review: The Host

Director: Joon-ho Bong
Screenplay: Joon-ho Bong, Ju-won Ha, and Chul-hyun Baek
Year: 2007

“The Host” starts with an insufferable doctor in a morgue ordering one of his subordinates to throw down the drain the content of hundreds of bottles of formaldehyde, which will reach one of the nearby rivers, as expressed by the concerned employee. The insufferable doctor couldn't care less, as the consequences, according to him couldn't be worse than having hundreds of bottles gathering dust. Immediately thereafter, two fishermen find a small creature with tentacles that they have not seen before. Coincidence?

Gang-du works in a food establishment belonging to his father in the border of river Han in Seoul, Korea. Gang-du's family blames his laziness and irresponsibility as the causes that made him lose his marriage and why he was left as a single parent of young Hyun-seo. While people enjoy a beautiful day on the side of the river, they start noticing a strange creature roaming around the place. Without any advice, the creature starts attacking the people around the place and ends up taking Hyun-seo. Gang-du alongside his father, brother and sister are determined to find Hyun-seo with hopes that she is still alive.

The first thing that we are interested in seeing a creature feature is the creature. In this, "The Host" surpasses all expectations creating an original creature and that always feels dangerous. This creature is brought on screen by extensively using CGI, but it always looks great. However, the creature is not shown a lot. This makes that every time the creature shows up to be effective, but at the same time it gives a lot of exposition to Gang-du's family drama.

The family drama part of this movie is a complex one. In part, it is necessary so that the viewer can understand the decisions that the family takes to find Hyun-seo, but this intention to explore the emotional part is overdone and affects the movie. This and some other comedy moments that simply don't work, maybe for the notable cultural differences, makes the movie feel to extensive and take it away from the horror genre. Cutting some of these scenes, which is 119 minutes runtime allows for, could result in a more cohesive product.

In a movie that puts so much weight on the emotional side, the acting is important. Beyond the cultural differences that can make us misinterpret body language or commentaries, the acting is great through the whole cast and they correctly convey the emotions. What ends up clashing with the tone presented on the script of also director Joon-ho Bong ("Okja"), Ju-won Ha ("Stray Dogs"), and Chul-hyun Baek and the acting is the weird choice of background music.

Above the flaws, it may have, "The Host" is an excellent movie and one of the best creature features in recent memory. The script is simple, and it weighs too much on the emotional and comedy, but the plot is captivating and exhilarating. The creature, that is always the most important part of this type of movie is original, well designed and terrifying and every scene in which it appears is great and shuddering.

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