Review: The Host (2006) by Jamie

As I write this, I’m not feeling one hundred percent. Tail end of a nasty cold and feeling tired. To make matters worse, every time I yawn, I feel like being sick so this might be a short/poorly written review. I apologise in advance.

Ah, South Korea. As long as there is “evil” North Korea, it’ll be best known for being the “good” Korea. In recent years it’s also become a major player in the film industry, it’s output gaining recognition around the world. Despite this, I haven’t actually seen that many South Korean films. In fact, until watching today’s film, the only one I think I’d seen is ‘Save The Green Planet’, a film which I really, really enjoyed. Hmm, should probably review that one day.

Still, today’s film is probably a bit better known that ‘Save The Green Planet’, at least according to what I’ve seen on the internet. Today’s film is the South Korean monster movie, ‘The Host’. Now, a quick word before I begin. Unfortunately, I could only get my hands on the dubbed version of this film which is kind of annoying. You see there are a number of problems with dubbed films, chief among them the fact that a sentence in one language isn’t always as long as the equivalent sentence in another language. And so you have the voice over artists either cramming everything they have to say into the short time that an actors mouth is moving or they have to change the translation a little to make it fit better. This kind of thing can be quite detrimental to the viewing experience, particularly the first problem which can really limit the voice actors performance.

So yeah, keep that in mind. I’d much rather watch a subtitled version of the film which is pretty much the case for all foreign films except for the Godzilla series. I grew up with them dubbed and it just adds to the fun of the series… except for the first one. That should be watched with subtitles as it’s a very serious film… Hmmm, I wonder if I could get a copy of the American film dubbed into Japanese. That’d be fun. Anyway, on with the review.

The basic plot is thus: A monster, born of formaldehyde being drained into the Han River creates a mutant amphibian/fish thing. This beast attacks a bunch of people enjoying a summer day near a river-side snack bar and the area is evacuated and sealed off by the Korean government and the American military. Now you’d think that this kind of film would follow the story of people trying to destroy the monster, and in some ways that’s true, but it’s actually a far more contained story of a family trying to find a relative who has been snatched up by the monster and taken back to it’s lair with a subplot involving a mysterious government cover-up and a virus which the monster is believed to be the host for (hence the film’s title).

The family in question, the Park family are made up of Gang-du (Song Kang-ho), a somewhat dim yet determined fellow who it’s hinted may have suffered some brain damage early in life, Hee-bong (Byeon Hee-bong), the family’s patriarch who runs the riverside snack-bar with Gang-du, Nam-ju (Bae Doona), Gang-du’s sister and famous archer and Nam-il (Park Hae-il) a college graduate. They are all searching for Gang-du’s daughter, Hyun-seo (Ko Ah-seong) who has been taken to the monsters lair somewhere in the sewers near the river.

The family, having been quarantined since they were present at the attack on river bank or interacted with people who were, decide that they have to break out in order to go and rescue Hyun-seo and do so. This results in them also being hunted by the American military which adds another layer of danger to the whole affair.

That’s about all I’m willing to write about the plot because doing more would probably give too much away. So let’s get into one of the biggest things to note about this film, it’s tone. It starts of quite light and funny, with elements of slapstick and just out and out bizarre-itude. As the film progesses it gets a little darker and a little more serious whilst still retaining some of that original sense of humour. Thanks to the fact that it layers in the seriousness slowly as the film continues it doesn’t suffer like ‘Hancock’ did from starting off light and then having an insanely serious twist in the middle which left audiences a little annoyed. Instead the tone seems to feel consistent even as it changes.

If I had one complaint about this film it’d probably be that there where times when things suddenly didn’t seem to make sense or characters or plot points just suddenly appeared out of nowhere. However this could just be a result of the dubbing, something I’ve seen happen before where plot points aren’t mentioned in the dub but are in the original language making it seems as though they just spontaneously occurred without explanation to those watching the dubbed version. As for the rest of the film, it all seemed pretty solid. Good plot, good special effects. I’m reticent to comment on the acting, again, because of the dubbed nature of the film, but from what I could gather it seemed pretty good. All in all a film that’s well worth a watch. Four pints out of five. Laterz.


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