Thursday, May 1, 2008

You've been hatin' and hatin', Matty Boy! Where's the lu-u-u-u-u-v?

Okay, hypothetical, let me say something nice about a movie on my Netflix list. I had heard good things about The Host, a monster movie from Korea first released in 2006. Directed by Joon-ho Bong and originally titled Gwoemul in Korean, which means monster, it is the story of a mutant amphibious beast that lives in the river Han, which runs through Seoul. The monster is about the size of a large truck, so it isn't really a Godzilla type flick. It's more in the style of Jaws or Lake Placid, about monsters big enough to consider humans as food.

The standard in this genre is for the good guys to be a team up of a scientist and local law enforcement. In this movie, the heroes are a family of a little girl, taken by the monster and presumed dead, but she survives and is able to call her father on her cell phone. Besides her father, a ne'er do well who works for his dad in a convenience shop near the river, his brother and sister join in the rescue attempt. The brother is an antiglobalization activist and the sister is a top archery competitor in her country.

While I put this movie in the same category as Jaws and Lake Placid, this movie, is much, much better than those. It's exciting and funny and heartfelt, and unlike so many Asian films today, the heroes aren't martial arts superstars. The musical score by Byung-woo Lee has strange carnival music elements reminiscent of Nino Rota or Tom Waits. While I berated Cloverfield for being derivative of other monster movies and action TV shows, I applaud The Host for borrowing elements from as diverse a set of entertainment as The Three Stooges, the films of Costa-Gavras and the Japanese anime The Grave of the Fireflies. I know that many of my readers don't care for commentary, and there isn't a commentary. There is a short feature of the director apologizing to people, actors in scenes that were cut, actors who had to wear masks and couldn't be seen very well, the people who were inconvenienced by the film being shot in popular locations around Seoul. Not exactly what Martin Scorsese would do, but Marty doesn't make monster movies, and if he did, he could learn a thing or two from Joon-ho Bong.

If you like monster movies, see The Host. If you don't like monster movies, see The Host.

'Cos Matty Boy lu-u-u-u-u-u-vs this movie.


dguzman said...

Hmmm... maybe. I'm not too big a fan of monster movies, but I do like good movies. And I'm struggling to keep my Netflix queue stocked with something besides documentaries (Kat has begged me to stop getting documentaries, but I luvs dem!).

The idea of the director apologizing etc. is something that I think would be alien to most American directors. But it's sweet, I think.

Splotchy said...

I saw pieces of this (without subtitles) and really liked what I saw. Coincidentally, this is close to the top of my Netflix queue.

CDP said...

I'll add it to our queue! My husband loves monster movies, and he'll be interested to see one made in Korea.

Matty Boy said...

I thought about my phrase "better than Jaws" quite a bit before and after I wrote it, and upon further review, the sentence stands as written. The movie has a lot more depth, the special effects make the monster more interesting, and you aren't just waiting around for the monster to show up again. There's plenty of rooting interest to go around in this one.

And the music is fantastic.

By the way, the movie is dubbed not subtitled on DVD, and that's the way it should be for foreign monster movies, at least in my book.

FranIAm said...

Since I am about to return the recommended Man from Plains movie today, now I better go update my queue!


sfmike said...

No, no, need the subtitled version. My domestic partner Tony actually has his name on the credits of this film because he was working at a local special-effects studio, The Orphanage, who did the monster. We even got to meet Bong at a party in a bar at Market and 7th, of all places. His previous movie, "Memories of Murder," is extraordinary, a weird mixture of serial-killer film, political commentary, buddy-cop tale, and bizarre humor. "The Host" has most of those qualities, too. Can't recommend either one highly enough, BUT IT NEEDS TO BE IN KOREAN. I has spoken.

Matty Boy said...

Thanks for the tip, mike. I'll see if there's an option for subtitles when I replay it this evening. I was also able to add "Memories of Murder" to my Netflix queue. Much obliged.

Ed said...

I think I need to see The Host. If the musical score sounds like Nino Rota or Tom Waits, that's reason enough. A good monster doesn't hurt, either. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.