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When a young girl is snatched away from her father by a horrifying giant monster that emerges from the River Han to wreak havoc on Seoul, her entire family sets out to locate the beast and bring their little girl back home to safety in South Korean director Bong Joon-ho's big-budget creature feature.
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SPOILER WARNING DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW
I watched The Host on a streaming service for free and then bought the movie. I had the movie on my watch list for a couple of years before I could bring myself to see it because we lived in Seoul near Yongson when I was a child. I loved it there, and I still miss it.
And my memories of Korea make a couple of the themes of this movie particularly poignant.
First, this is a good old-fashioned creature feature. By that, I mean that the movie incorporates ambivalence about science and scientists with natural karmic consequences for human - particularly Western - arrogance. The name of the movie - The Host - ostensibly refers to a SPOILER virus /SPOILER. However, if you've been in South Korea, you know that the country is one of the most gracious and hospitable places you can visit. It's lovely and amazing. And beautiful. And the people are super nice. My brother was six when he got on a bus by himself and went downtown. Two older women who spoke no English whatsoever managed to bring him to our door. They treat their longterm American guests really well. That's not to say that they have no ambivalence. That same little brother learned about the single finger salute on our first busride through the countryside to visit my dad on his Army base. And they have good reason for that ambivalence. We're not always the most polite company.
In The Host, this is dramatized not just by the main action - how the creature happens and what measures are taken to stop it - but by the deadpan news broadcasts in the background describing how U.S. forces buffalo their way into containment efforts without any regard whatsoever for Korea itself or its people.
The other theme you might miss is how South Korea treats its children. I am not sure whether it is still the case, but when I was there so many years ago, the babywearing and attachment parenting that are all the rage in modern western culture were taken for granted there. So was free range parenting for children about 8 and up. Kids are really important. Keeping them safe. Teaching them how to keep themselves safe. And strangers will bring your little ones home. Those norms are violated by the Americans and those who work for them. I could go on, but I am trying to give some background that might help you love this movie as much as I do, not ruin the plot, let alone the ending.
If you like the SAW and HOSTEL movies, I don't think this is going to do it for you. If you are into gargantuan monster flicks, this may or may not work for you. For me, there was less disbelief that I needed to suspend with this one versus the most recent Godzilla movies. But if you like a well-made plausible scare that works on multiple levels, I think you might love The Host.
The reason I could not watch all of it this time is because the DVD sucks.
The original DVD The Host (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) was purchased when it first came out, and play successfully for several years; but, last December, the DVD player claimed it was "dirty" and the computer software player reported that it "could not read" a file.
The disc was discolored, and online research suggested that this was because of "disk rot" -- that is, a manufacturing defect.
Since only the movie disc was affected, I ordered this edition. When it failed I sent it back for a replacement.
Although the details varied, /both/ discs, when the film was played, stopped at the same point; at first, I thought this was Ch 19, but further research suggests Ch 18. This may be the layer change, or it may be where the manufacturing defect is located.
So the /film/ I can heartily recommend.
But not the DVD.
I've watched this film in both the English dub and the original Korean version with the English subtitles. And while I agree that it makes all the difference hearing the actor's voice as opposed to mismatched English replacements, the subtitles are almost unreadable. Unless they appear against a dark background, they cannot be seen to be read.
The story moves quickly, it deals with a family's unshakable faith that their youngest member, taken by the creature, is still alive. They set out against overwhelming odds to rescue her. This oddball family is both humorous and heartrending in their devotion. In addition to this, there's also some political observations included (based on real events involving a Korean mortician who dumped large quantities of formaldehyde down a drain). In this film, Americans are not portrayed with any great affection. Director Bong Joon-ho stated, "It's a stretch to simplify The Host as an anti-American film, but there is certainly a metaphor and political commentary about the U.S." Regardless of whatever grudge the filmmakers have against America, this is still a good film worth watching (and having in one's collection).
Supposedly, there is a prequel in the works and an American remake.
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It’s easy to see what makes “The Host” a great movie.Read more