Friday, September 22, 2006

The Host

The Host- 괴물
Cast- Byun Hee Bong, Song Gang Ho, Park Hae Il, Bae Doo Na, Ko An Sung
Director- Bong Joon Ho (Memories of Murder)


Finally managed to catch The Host on Wednesday night with a couple of 친구 (friends). I've been curious aboutt he show since it broke all records in Korea including The King and the Clown. Especially as the star of the show is a mutant monster.



For the last few months, all the magazines have covered this movie, whether in passing or in depth. At the last check, according to Koreanfilm.org,the movie has a box office of US$12,790,800 as at 10th September.

Frankly speaking, I'm not really in horror but this being more of monster movie, I didn't mind watching it.

Synopsis
The US army pours some toxic down the drain, which flowed into the Han River. Years later, on a nice sunny day, a mutant monster arises out of the river. It attacked all those around because well, that's what monsters do. In the process, it captured Hyun Soh, the one most important member of the Park family. Without any help form the bumbling and sceptical governments (both the US and the Korean), the Park family had no choice but to embark on their own rescue efforts.

And that, really is the gist of the movie.

But what made the movie interesting were the characters and the often subtle digs at the governments and bureacracies and red tape. It has serious messages within the story but they were presented with enough comic flairs. Of course the fact that the family is rather dysfunctional helped was a surprise to me but I think that's where the draw of the movie lies in.

There's grandfather Park Hee Bong (Byun Hee Bong - the grandfather in My Girl), who runs a food kiosk by the Han River, with his elder son, the father of Hyun Suh. Park Gang Do (Song Gang Ho) is abit of a sloppy dimwit, prone to falling asleep all the time, anywhere. But he is entirely devoted to his daughter Hyun Suh (Ko An Sung). Then there's Hyun Suh's uncle (Park Hae Il, the postman in My Mother, the Mermaid), an unemployed, alchoholic graduate who used to be a bit of a radical during his school days. Lastly, there's the auntie (Bae Doo Na), a national archer competitor, probably the most outstanding of all the 3 childen. All of them are not perfect but all of them love Hyun Suh dearly and pulled together in their efforts to save her.

The dysfunctional family


In thinking back about the movie, it wasn't the major scenes like the rampage on the river bed, or the chaos in the mourning palour or the final stand-off between the family the family and the monster that stayed in my mind.

Rather it was the minor scenes that I remembered.

- The official asking for a bribe as the family was escaping from the quarantined area.

- The government officials (mostly US), having a BBQ whilst Gang Do was undergoing test treatments in high security inside a lab truck.

- At the table, where all 4 of them were having instant noodles after spending a night looking for Hyun Suh in the sewers. In their hearts, they imagined that she was with them. In fact, I found this to be the most heart-warming scene that reinforces the movie as a family centred one. In a typical Asian show of affection and concern, their question was: When was the last time Hyun Suh ate?

As for scary moments, though I'd prepared myself for the scary moments- you know the usual scenes where the monster appears when all are quiet, I still had a couple of scares. Especially when Hyun Suh was trying to escape from the monster towards the end. (hehe! one of the guy in the audience was thoroughly caught out in one of the scene and he screamed quite loudly).

I'm no movie critic and I probably missed out more than half of the message that the director intended. But it was an entertaining movie right from the start. And I could not end review without saying how impressed I am with Ko An Sung as Hyun Suh. I am certain Korea has a factory somewhere where they churned out child actors by the dozen.



A side note: The Host, Time (Kim Ki Duk) and The King and the Clown were all in contention for being selected to be submited to the Oscars by he Korean Film industry. The King and the Clown won in the end as they felt that The Host may appear too much to be like a B Grade monster movie to the American judges.

The Host is still showing in Singapore and is brought in by Festive Film. For further reviews, you can go to

Koreanfilm.org- The Host
Twitchfilm- Reviews. Serach under H as there are 3 reviews.

2 comments:

bb said...

i enjoyed the host. love how the director used black and silly humour to bring out a rather serious theme :p

tiffany said...

Yes, it was better than I expected...though I didn't really know what to expect as it was a monster movie. I only wish I understand Korean politics more so that I can get more of the messages from the director