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.