DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

The Host (Gwoemul) - DVD Review



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The monster movie has been a source of mass appeal in theatres since the dawn of cinema. So engrained are the conventions of a good monster flick that even a casual movie watcher can sit down and have an idea of what's in store for them. The Host, while adopting many of the conventions of the past, is not a movie you'll be able to predict, and this is both it's greatest achievement and it's greatest flaw...

Following a South Korean family of misanthropes, The Host tells the story of a mutated creature springing from the Han River and beginning to chow down and stockpile the locals. In its first attack, the youngest girl in the family, Hyun-seo, is snatched by the creature and assumed dead. But this girl is a resourceful one, and when she manages to send her father a text message, he bands up with the rest of the family to go rescue her.

Had the script stuck to that main thread for the entirety of the film it would have made for a movie on Par with any that has come before. But the script is an odd, unpredictable mishmash of political satire, thrills, slapstick comedy, and tragedy that while done well can never be successfully weaved together in one film. The tone of the film is never set, and therefore the audience is going to get a little lost, not from the intelligently crafted plotting, but from the fact you don't know whether to laugh or cry at any given moment. The truly compelling moments of tension throughout the film lie soley with the character of Hyun-seo. Trying to follow the other four members of the family becomes an unwelcome intrusion, for the most part, when you want to see what this impressive little girl is going to try and do next. The slapstick fumbling moments, the unnecessary focus on political allegory (clever, yes but not needed), and some over-plotting with the four adult's backstories do nothing to aid this film in being coherent, and become a detraction to the heart of this film. There is no one element that is done badly, but combined they seem to cancel each other out some.

The film boasts some of South Korea's cream of the crop. Their performances range from extraordinary to almost one-dimensional characitures. Of special mention is Ko Ah-seong, who plays Hyun-seo. She is a truly gifted young actor, The Host being her first feature, and it is her alone that makes this film worth watching.

The direction from Bong Joon-Ho falls into the same ilk of the script. It is at once an outstanding display of talent in any one element of the film, whether it be the monster moments, the comedy, or the tradegy portions. But when combined it plays like a wish list of things the director wanted to try, instead of a singular vision.

The effects are extraordinary, the creature is very original (won't even try to describe what it looks like just see for yourself) the whole production design and choice of location are first rate.

The complaints that the film has a somewhat anti-American sentiment are ridiculous and unfounded. The political allegories are about as subtle as a house brick to the side of the head (‘Agent Yellow!' Come on! Just go with it.) They are obvious, they are tongue-in-cheek, and they are also very even-handed, as they set them off toward their own South Korean government just as much.

This film received a lot of critical praise, and deservedly so. It is the most successful film in South Korea's history, and as an inclusion on the international stage, it is definitely a film that will surprise even the most ardent monster movie fans. But its delivery as a whole is not something that is going to translate well for everyone. Nevertheless, for those out there looking for something a little different, with good production values and surprises galore, The Host will deliver in spades.


DVD

DVD Details:



This two-disc set is a very generous, in-depth look at the film from conception to release.

Screen Formats: 1.85:1

Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Korean: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Commentary
o Feature-length audio commentary with director Bong Joon-Ho and Tony Rayns, a noted film critic who covers Asian films extensively.
o Reflections (05:00) - on-screen apologies from the director to actors and people he may have "wronged" in making the film.
* Deleted Scenes - Eleven scenes totalling nearly twenty-four minutes of additional footage that didn't make the final cut. Also included are more than four minutes of news clips.
* Documentary - 8-part doc covering the storyboards, direction, production, set design, sfx, and sound design.
* Featurette
o The Creature - (85:00) seven segments that include behind-the-scene footage and interviews, including a substantial amount of material about Weta Workshop.
o Crew coverage - (20:00)
+ The Staff
+ The Production Team
+ Visual Effects Supervisor
o Cast Coverage (27:00)
* Gag Reel (05:00) - Saying Goodbye
* Trailers

Number of Discs: 2 with Amaray Packaging

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