Nov 06

Not A Very Good Host

Do You See + FT7 comments • 1,005 views

the-host.jpgThere is a standard press release story which has accompanied most of the press for The Host, Korean monster movie which has been out for a couple of weeks. The director Bong Joon-ho (of the previously also well received Memories Of Murder) just photoshopped a picture of the Loch Ness Monster on to the Han river in Seoul and let the picture do the work. Here is my artist impression of this picture. Would you spunk the most money EVER spent on a Korean film on the strength of this image? Nevertheless, having seen it, one can believe it. As the story itself is a mish-mash of inspired ideas mixed with shaky plot-points which impresses but makes you feel it was a sliver away from greatness.

So the chemicals get poured in down the drain, a tadpole mutates and rampages for a bit. Our feckless hero has his daughter stolen and he and his family try to rescue her against the will of the government. All pretty simple stuff, bolstered by the unexpected but really rather wonderful comedy of desperation shown by the leads. But this lurching between horror and comedy often feels forced, and whilst the movie is sparing with its monster, it is also sparing with motivation too. Not for the monster, the monster wants to eat, regurgitate, eat. But the shadowy realms of conspiracy, which the film dips its toes into, is a lot less successful. The film is called The Host, as the monster is seen to be the host of a deadly disease (and also blamed for SARS). But this disease never appears, and is later shown to be some sort of pointless conspiracy so that “Agent Yellow” can be dropped on Seoul. Which in itself seems to move from a biological weapon which will wipe out all life in a twelve mile radius, to something that causes a bit of a cough.

This is a pity because it gets almost everything else right, from the lead characters redemption to the real moments of terror when the little girl tries to escape the monsters lair*. But then it also gets a few things terribly wrong (is a little orphaned boy really an adequate replacement for a dead daughter in the happy ending?) With someone sitting down and pointing out the bit that did not work, this could have been the best monster movie ever. Instead its just the best one for thirty years.

Oh and yet again the Koreans show themselves to be in the forefront of mobile phone films, even sharing a lead actress with Take Care Of My Cat. There are some excellent mobile led plot points.

* I prefer this alternative interpretation of the title. The monster regurgitates its victims, usually dead, into its lair – but the daughter survives. In many ways the monster is therefore her host.


  1. 1
    alext on 23 Nov 2006 #

    odd moment at end: bloke turns off tv while spokesman apparently supplies explanation of non-existence of disease on news.

    I assumed ‘host’ must be some DO YOU SEE pointer re: relationship between South Korea and USA?

  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 23 Nov 2006 #

    The beauty about short words in English is that they have so many meanings. What I found amusing was the subtitles of the TV stuff when they explained the monster was THE HOST of the disease, it said THE HOST in capital letters on the Subs. Did not think of US Korea, which is obv as you say.

    Equally TV explaination at the end was very sheepish and still made no sense. Pity because this aspect could have been made to work (it could have explained for example why the authorities were not really hunting the monster at all).

  3. 3
    cis on 23 Nov 2006 #

    I thought the turning-off at the end was a ‘the geopolitical stuff does not matter to us&ours DO YOU SEE’ moment, not so much odd as a quite straightforward ‘the politix of the situation does not care about us and our personal relationship to it; so neither do we we care about the politix, ner ner ner’.

    괴물 means ‘monster’ (according to my k-dictionary: how can i not have yet learnt such an important word!); the choice of english name still feels kind of baffling to me. Perhaps it’s along the lines of ‘first the monster is seen as the host of the apparent infection, then the korean man (as repr of all the korean people) who must be lobotomised, then korea itself which must be decontaminated of ALL LIFE – see how the madness of those in power escalates! in fact the only host to infection is the branes of the US-leading-the-skgovt, infected by paranoia of politix’

  4. 4
    Pete Baran on 23 Nov 2006 #

    I like the initial monster sighting a lot. What’s that weird thing in the river, lets throw things at it!

    I though the turning off was more “the plot holes do not matter to us poor folks at the whims of a plotmaster who seems to find so many kids without mothers a normal state”. What was THAT all about?

  5. 5
    cis on 23 Nov 2006 #

    South Korea is only half a country; the Korean people have only half their parents!

  6. 6
    cis on 23 Nov 2006 #

    Note how the aunt had nothing mothering about her: clearly, the moment the daughter started looking after the little orphan boy and displaying hints of ‘motherliness’, she had to die.

    or, or – maybe the monster was her mum! all their mothers! warped by the aftereffects of US imperialist occupation of korea, consigned to The Cloaca, home haunted by the ghosts of male bodies, doesn’t want the kids to go out…

  7. 7
    Pete Baran on 24 Nov 2006 #

    North Korea: The mother of all axis of evil countries.

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