Thursday, May 6, 2010

Archive: "The Host" (2007)

This big, messy monster flick is one of the most bizarrely and delightfully enjoyable things to ever arrive on American screens from overseas. It's wild, loud, exhilarating, and boisterously preposterous, and all the better for it. It's dynamic, inviting, and absolutely sheer entertainment from start to finish. To prove this is such a good monster movie, consider this: Movies such as this usually rely on special effects to win people over, and yet "The Host" pulls off having the lamest visuals around and still holds the same lasting effect.

A man sits sleeping at a food stand, and the father lifts his snoozing son's face up to gather up some change for a customer. A young girl arrives to this food stand and joins her now awake father to watch her aunt compete in an archery competition on TV. She just gets done telling her father that he missed her parent day at school and that her drunken uncle had to come instead. The grandfather tells his son that he needs to redeliver an order of squid to a customer in the park. As he goes out to give it to them, he and a bunch of other people notice something out in the Han River under the bridge. Before being fully introduced to the dynamic of this ultimately dysfunctional family, the monster is already grown to full size, swims quickly to shore to this admiring crowd, and immediately begins terrorizing.

If you've noticed that I'm avoiding names here, it's because they're too hard to remember, and I don't want to bother to type them; however, I think the daughter's name was Heyon-Seu. Nevertheless, this daughter comes outside of the food stand only to be dragged along by her father fleeing from the monster, just like everybody else. He loses her grip, and suddenly, she is swooped up by the monster and taken away. When she is claimed deceased, this is when the real dynamic of this family is revealed. A darling scene ensues when both the aunt and the uncle come to grieve along with the father and the grandfather, and they all eventually roll around on the floor writhing in emotional pain together as standers-by discuss that there is a Hyundai parked in the wrong place outside.

The entire family is quarantined, along with the majority of the rest of the population, because there has been an announcement of a virus being spread and that the monster is, well, the host. This quirky family of ours escapes, though, involving a scene that is nearly reminiscent of "Little Miss Sunshine" as they all gather into a black van with a sliding side door that they all jump into. From here, the family runs around trying to find their little girl who they actually get a call from; she tells her father that she's stuck in a deep sewer somewhere. They become the wanted "infected" family, and so they intentionally and also accidentally split up along the way. There's always something going on in every single scene, whether it's something that makes you shriek or laugh. The movie is oftentimes hilarious, frightening, and sentimental. It combines all the makings of a truly great monster movie and is a surefire genre-bender in every sense of the term.

The movie becomes less about the actual monster and more about the consequences that arise from the monster simply being there. The monster itself is a giant lizard that can travel on land and water; although it sounds frightening, the monster actually isn't too menacing unless on some crazy rampage. And so, a large majority of the film revolves around the overly-protective government virus prevention programs that are implemented on the public. There's even a hint of anti-American sentiment with all of this; however, it's all good-natured fun and it only addresses things we as Americans are already thinking. It's just funny to see that Koreans are thinking some of the same things, and can show it through their films.

"The Host" is something of a bizarre treat. It is a film that bubbles with cinematic life, vibrancy, and energy. It breaks the mold of the usual Godzilla formula by adding a quirky family element, which is really what makes the movie shine the way it does. Simply put, it's a movie that's hard to describe and is something you must see to believe. This movie is not only one of the best monster movies, but quite frankly the single best monster movie I have ever seen. There really are not too many out there to begin with anyway.

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