The Host
Run for your lives! Kim Jong-Il wants to sing us a power ballad!

Theatrical Release Date: 07/27/2006 (South Korea), 03/09/2007 (USA)
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Byeon Hie-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Du-na, Ko Ah-sung

Remember the urban legend about flushing baby alligators down the toilet and how they grew up in the sewers and would eat anyone who ended up down there?

There have been movies made about that premise and I’m sorry that of all the cliché formulas Hollywood has embraced and continued on with, this isn’t one of them.

However, Koreans have a slightly new take on the matter.

Writer/director Joon-ho Bong, looking out onto the Han River in Korea, imagined that dumping toxic chemicals into the river would result in some sort of monstrous mutation.

That result took shape in “The Host”. A funny-scary movie in the vein of “Shaun of the Dead”, the premise begins with formaldehyde being dumped down the drain.

Years later, a grotesque creature emerges from the sewer system to attack the people on the surface.

I don’t want to get into the particulars of the plot but through the events of the first attack, one family decides to take it upon themselves to hunt down the creature.

All of the actors do a nice job of being believable but at the same time funny, treading a fine line as the film could devolve into complete schlock if not handled right.

The humor in the film is fun and adds an element that takes this film from being just another monster movie and elevates it to another level.

The real star of the film, however, is the monster. This thing is badass, to put it mildly. Boasting a prehensile tail, grasping claws and a formidable set of choppers, this is clearly one creature you don’t want showing up at your bar mitzvah.

As they surely didn’t have fifty million dollars to make the film, there are a few special effects shots (mostly towards the end) that look a bit unfinished. Still, what ended up making the cut 98% of the time was simply awesome.

The creature has a wonderful, tangible quality that is so often lacking in some of these effects-laden films.

That being said, I think the director may have been better served trimming some of the fat. At a running time just a heartbeat away from two hours, I thought “The Host” dragged on in parts and although I’m prematurely aging, I shouldn’t be tempted to drift off at a 9:45 Saturday night show.

Also, I’m sad to say that Universal Studios has picked up the rights to remake this (like every other Asian horror film) and we can only await the watered down version starring whatever “it” teen star sensation is around.

That the film will be reshaped and re-released for American audiences is only made funnier by the underlying sentiment in the film that the United States is negligent and somewhat stupid.

It’s because of Americans in the film that the chemicals get dumped and the family is left to fend for themselves. There are times when I would be angry about that message but I can see both of those things happening within the context of the film and the real world (we are number one at a lot of things and dumping toxic waste is certainly on that list).

Dispensing with the slower scenes and eventual crappy remake, “The Host” brought an innovative and fresh take to the monster movie genre and is far more worth your dollars than most of the other fare out right now.

Until then, if you can find “The Host” nearby, give it a shot. I’m giving it a 3 out of 5. I was tempted to nudge it up a notch but I thought the running time was too long and there was another aspect I wanted that wasn’t there (run your cursor over the next paragraph if you want to know this SPOILER).

There’s only one monster. Why wouldn’t the toxic chemicals make more than one? Even if it was a different kind of creature, that would only make it cooler.