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The Host (2006) - Film Review

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by Tinderlocks (subscribe)
I'm a budding sound designer and composer for film. I live, eat and breathe movies!
Published January 20th 2013

Korean monster horror in the same vein as Cloverfield and Skyline, minus the found footage aspect. I love watching foreign films' take on pretty standard genres. I mean, if The Host was made by an American studio, it probably would've been pretty cliché and nothing special. However, since Korea made it, it became a totally different unexpected kettle of fish.

So the film is basically about a creature that is found in the Han River that one day starts eating any happy civilians who gets near the river. What's good about this film is that the main characters aren't a bunch of gun-toting patriots or a collection of stupid college students. Instead they are an odd-ball, clumsy, dysfunctional family. And in saying that, they aren't a G-rated Matthew Broderick family either. They're all a bit weird and by no means heroic in any shape or form. The creature itself isn't the stereotypical animalistic ferocious beast. True it does eat people but it is selective. Also, it seems to possess a sense of intelligence that is unpredictable. Even the creature's visual aspect is different. It appears to be a giant walking fish with a kind of tentacley mouth and a long tentacle tail. Quite hard to explain really.

As I watched the film the first time, I thought it was a different take on the creature/monster film genre, enjoyable overall. What I was unaware of until reading explanations from the film that there was actually a deeper underlying meaning. The Host is actually a jab at American "imperialism" and capitalism taking over the world with the Earth as a casualty. At the start the film shows an American scientist ordering an assistant to tip highly toxic chemicals down the drain. The next thing we see is the creature gobbling up Koreans. Then later in the film the "Americans" take control of the whole situation alarming the public of a virus that is transmitted through contact with the creature. Then there is speculation that the Americans have no proof of the claim. Again this shows the fear mongering the US is infamous for, causing unnecessary panic or terror. I'd love to watch the film again so that I can pick up on more anti-capitalist themes. So the film's not just a fun romp with a people hungry beast.

Sound design wise I thought it was very well-done and with a sense of realism. Often sounds were not hyper-real and ridiculous sounding. Even the creature sounds weren't overly slimy or squelchy which is often the case with US monster varieties. The creature design CGI was good, not crap, but not exceptional either. It was good to see the creature appear during the day for a change. The effects definitely were good enough not to take away from the film's progression. Acting too was good, quirky and the characters were anything but cliché.

So, as can be ascertained, I was highly entertained by this film. I wouldn't say it was a masterpiece of cinema but it had unequivocal superior qualities to other films of the same genre. The production value was good, acting good, great writing and morals, and an ending that wasn't predictable. I'd have to give this film a 6.5 out of 10.

Directed by Joon-ho Bong.
Writeen by Joon-ho Bong, Won-jun Ha, Chul-hyun Baek.
Starring Kang-ho Song, Hie-bong Byeon, Hae-il Park, Doona Bae, Ah-sung Ko etc.
Country: South Korea, Japan
Language: Korean, English
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Where: DVD / Blu-ray
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