February 23, 2007

The Host Takes A Bite Out of Viewers

The Host
Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) knows that something wicked this way comes in the new Korean movie The Host.

Cinecultist likes monster movies with bite, the kind where you get goosed by something jumping out from the screen right after you've laughed uproariously at some witty, ironic aside. The two parts "goosing" and "laughing" have to go together, one without the other just devolves into Children of the Corn or the like. If you also appreciate smart scariness on screen, might we suggest checking out The Host, a newish movie by Korean director Bong Joon-Ho which CC saw at NYFF last year and is finally getting a theatrical release. The IFC Center here in New York is also hosting a mini-fest of his movies starting next Monday and culminating in a screening of The Host with Bong conducting a post-film Q&A on Tuesday.

Two things we heartily enjoyed about this movie, though there's a lot in it to endear:

1) It's a Godzilla for the 21st century, a seemingly innocent action movie that's actually fraught with intriguing paranoia about mankind's callousness towards nature coming back to bite us in the ass. The Japanese in '54 were freaked out by the prospect of nuclear disaster, while the Koreans seem to be more afraid of the mutations from pollution by chemicals. Either way, in both movies they know they've been co-opted by American expansionist greed and they sorta know they're screwed (ie. expecting a huge beast to emerge from the water and eat their people). It ain't gonna be pretty, but it makes for a darn entertaining movie.

2) In the face of scary nature rebelling against stupid mankind, you'd expect the movie's heroes to actually be heroic but Bong says, Pshaw that kind of simplistic characterization is for chumps. In every instance where various members of this one family could save the day with their unique abilities, they don't. It's failure and well-meaning fuck up all around, which as a movie's strategy takes some serious balls. Without giving too much away, Cinecultist really admires any film that can be both decidedly genre picture yet flout that genre's structures to the audience's face. Bong achieves this with grace and good humor, while keeping the suspense level high.

Posted by karen at February 23, 2007 2:23 PM
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