It’s a rare feat to produce a film that successfully mashes several different genres into one – let alone be able to satisfy both rabid fanboys and the hypercritical art-house crowd – but Joon-ho Bong’s “The Host” does just that. Basically, simply put, The Host is a monster movie about a truck-sized mutant that crawls out of the a river and unleashes terror upon the citizens of Seoul — and yet, it is not one. Part of The Host’s appeal is that its core concerns are somewhat slippery, and hard to pinpoint.
The film starts unconventionally for a monster movie, in that it starts immediately. Part of the tradition of monster movies is that since the monster looks so ridiculous, a good part of act one has to be built on foreshadowing and suspense trickery in order to keep the rubber puppet offscreen until as close to the fade out as possible. The skill of a monster movie director is normally judged on how well he juggles his screen action and narrative to keep the monster offstage. See Steven Spielberg’s work with Bruce the shark in “Jaws”, as that is clearly a textbook example. Bong, on the other hand, shakes up the genre by opening with his monster in full view.
I won’t ruin the look of the monster, or spoil the magic for you like so many people did for me with CLoverfeild, but what I will say is that the film is very well done. It’s just there — some kind of aqua-lizard thing that looks as real as anything else in the frame, tearing into the streets and swallowing up people whole. The monster itself is not a force of pre-meditated evil, bent on destroying civilization. It is simply acting out in what it’s general nature is to do. Thats his purpose…this is what he does.
The problem with that idea is that the monster is so incredible in its size that it’s no longer scary. A cockroach the size of a house is absurd, but one about the size of my cat might be horrifying, simply because I have a better frame of reference for creatures of this size. In most films, when the monster is revealed, so is the lack of budget and skill. It’s usually a big let down. Here, if you have any complaints about the monster, it’s right there, challenging you to make them. And that, ladies and gentleman, is something I can respect. Pop some popcorn and enjoy this flick for what it is. Pure entertainment. Slight Recommendation.