The Host (Gwoemul)
Director: Joon-ho Bong (Memories of Murder)
Writers: Chul-hyun Baek, Joon-ho Bong, Won-jun Ha
Producer: Yong-bae Choi
Starring: Kang-ho Song, Hie-bong Byeon, Hae-il Park, Du-na Bae, Ah-sung Ko
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 119 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

reviewed by Andrew James
     A true creature feature for the next generation, The Host brings fun and amusement to the genre, but also mixes in some heartfelt drama and some legitimately scary, heart palpitation inducing scenes.

      After a deliberate chemical "spill," a creature the likes of which have never been seen preys upon unsuspecting victims along the Han River in Korea. One of the victims is a small girl who is literally taken from her father's grasp. The bumbling and arguing family of the taken, embark on a mission to rescue the little girl. Think Little Miss Sunshine meets Lake Placcid.

      The opening attack scene is fantastically directed and well deserving of another viewing for its terrific pace and suspense. Unfortunately the rest of the film isn't able to measure up with this initial bar that is set so high.

      The creature itself looks surprisingly good considering the budget ($10 mil) and country of origin of the film. It's obviously not up to Hollywood standards, but aside from a few scenes (that are completely overlookable) the creature looks and moves realistically. This is assuming we know what a ten ton, mutant, slime creature from Korea moves and looks like. The other good news is we're never cheated of actually seeing the monster in all its glory like so many film makers of the genre like to do to cover their tracks when they know it doesn't work (i.e. a jiggling camera, flashing lights or blurriness). Instead, we get several glimpses of the creature from all angles and in all its states (sleeping, charging, angry, howling, etc.).

      Despite Joon-ho Bong's previous effort, the fantastic Memories of Murder, I'm surprised at the huge bank this film is raking in; especially on its home soil of Korea. The movie itself is shattering all sorts of dollar records there. This seems like it would have a very niche audience, but from everyone I've talked to that's seen it, from high scool girls to thirty-something Star Trek nerds they are loving this film. And frankly, I don't quite get it.

      As mentioned, the opening action sequence drops off immediately to many, many minutes of set up and social commentary regarding Korean militarization, a corrupt media and unwanted and immoral American involvement. This is all done in a very humorous way that you may think is chuckle worthy or just an odd sense of humor that flies over your head. I actually enjoyed the laughable moments myself, but was less enthralled by the far too lengthy exposition and pretty much nothingness that happens for a long time. The actors do their best to keep the pace going, and actually do a pretty decent job with their parts, but they can't carry a story that appears to be going nowhere.

      Basically what we have here is a story that seems fun and starts off really fun, but drops off quickly and gets messy and disjointed. The story-line and its characters seemed too jerky for me. It was as if the film maker had so many ideas of what to put on screen that he couldn't quite focus on just a few of them, but instead mushes as much stuff as he can into two hours and the length overflows with needlessness.

      Overall an enjoyable experience and a fun time at the theater with something a little different than the normal Hollywood fare. The humor hit me well and the creature scenes are great; especially the opening attack sequence and the climactic battle. Unfortunately there was just too much in the middle that didn't seem to fit quite right and it felt like the movie went on longer than it really did. It needed something more to really grab me and proclaim this as a masterpiece as so many seem to be screaming.

Press "PLAY" to watch the trailer

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site