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10.23.2017
Host, The (2007)
Movie Review by The Embalmer
11.05.09

Host, The (2007) It's really difficult for Americans to understand East Asian horror. Sure, the best of the best make it across the Pacific (i.e. Juon, Reincarnation, Battle Royale, etc.), but when a movie like The Host gets here, we misinterpret the hype and end up expecting a genre which we don't necessarily get. The Host is a monster movie...kind of, a horror movie...kind of, a soap opera...kind of. What we need to do is step back from our culturally-bound expectations of a genre and try to understand that, hey, Korean film is different from American film.

The Host is first and foremost a psychological treatment of what a dysfunctional family (to use Gravedigger's terminology) would do in an absolutely extraordinary situation. A chemical research laboratory has dumped some pretty vicious chemicals into the Han River, which creates a monster of sorts that spreads a fake infection into the surrounding area. The army quarantines the area around the river and searches desperately for the creature (or maybe not too desperately since it unrealistically takes them days to even locate it - how do you lose a creature like that?). On top of it all, Park Gang-Du (Kang-Ho Song) has lost his daughter, Hyun-Seo (Ah-Sung Ko), to the creature, which dragged her into the sewer without killing her. Along with his father Hie-Bong (Hie-Bong Byeon), sister Nam-Joo (Du-Na Bae), and brother Nam-Il (Hae-Il Park) Gang-Du searches the sewers for his daughter. Unfortunately, the army catches wind that he made physical contact with the creature and spends the whole movie searching for him for quarantine.

I'm going to go back to what I said originally: Korean horror films (if you can call The Host a horror film) don't focus on the same things that American horror films focus on. The latter are generally relentless treatments designed to scare audiences into submission. This is why so many people hate the horror genre; it just makes them feel uncomfortable. I watched The Host with a friend who doesn't really care for horror movies; she didn't like The Host either, but not because it was a horror film. I think this is the benefit of these sorts of movies: they allow people who are skeptical of the genre to understand that there's so much more than cheap thrills and constant scares.

I know I'm talking philosophically, but The Host really is a great movie. The special effects are absolutely fantastic, specifically the creature's interactions with the environment and how the CG teams obviously put a lot of effort into the project. The monster doesn't appear very frequently, which makes it all the more terrifying and spectacular to behold. I can't tell whether or not the acting is very good (it's difficult when the language is so different from English), but the mannerisms of the actors were confined to an average (at best) script. I really wish I could watch the movie in Korean without the pesky subtitles, which were often misspelled (that's not the fault of the movie though and shouldn't allow judgment to be passed one way or another). The Host is another example of why only a few East Asian horror flicks make it to the United States every year; it's high-budget and high excitement. A good comparison would be 13 Game of Death, the Thai movie from 2006; both of them are psychological thrillers, horror movies, and disturbing rides into the world of Asian macabre.

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