The Host - 2007

Here's another movie that is totally out of character for me to watch. I read so many glowing reviews of it when it was released in 2006 that I became curious, so when I saw it on the Seattle Public Library list, I decided to take a chance...

The opening scene takes place in a laboratory where the man in charge is instructing one of his underlings to dispose of some controlled substances by emptying them into a sink where they will drain into the Han river. After much debate, the underling is forced to do it and we know that something bad is gonna happen.

This is a Korean SciFi/Horror film that is definitely a notch above the regular run-of-the-mill movies of this ilk. The focus is on one small family: Grandpa runs a snack bar/food shack on one bank of the Han river. One of his sons is supposed to be helping him but he is truly a dim bulb, with a possible case of narcolepsy. Another son was given a college education but isn't sure what he's going to do with it. The daughter is a high-ranking amateur archer who, at the very beginning of the film, misses out on a gold medal and has to settle for a bronze. A ten-year-old granddaughter, the daughter of the dim bulb, helps grandpa with the snack bar and attends school.

This movie has two major assets: 1) The family members clearly love each other. You see them constantly nattering among themselves, arguing and quibbling, but as the chips go down, they will do anything for each other. 2) The film contains a LOT of humor, so as this family squabbles, even their contentiousness is humorous. Grandpa chides his son, saying he had to sell lots of "Pot Ramen" to put him through the university, so he hopes he'll find a job soon. Later in the film as the mutated monster is ransacking the waterfront, they take shelter back in the snack bar. After pouring boiling water into the containers, they all sit patiently, waiting for their ramen noodles to "cook." Then they peel back the tops, grab their chopsticks and dig in.

The movie takes place in contemporary Korea, so the ubiquitous cell phones play major roles, even when the batteries aren't fully charged. Bureaucratic bungles are typical of governments everywhere... In this movie, Korea is no different. The powers-that-be are off on a tangent, searching for a virus that doesn't exist and herding crowds of people into holding tanks where they can try to isolate it.

I suspected I'd like it when I started out with the extras and listened to the director apologizing to a number of people: Soccer fans in a scene that took ten takes and then they didn't use the scene. The two actors who played fishermen but their faces aren't clearly discernable. The actor who had to hang from the monster's tentacle through several painful takes. The actors who played technicians in hazmat suits but their faces are obscured. I saw many, many subtle bits in numerous scenes that might be overlooked but added to their authentic "feel" and more humor. The guy is a GOOD director!

No blowie uppie stuff, but exciting, just the same.