Great Asian horror debuts in U.S.
Over the past few years, dozens of terrible horror films have come out of Hollywood. They not only fail to elicit scares, but they also offer little consideration in regards to artistic integrity, actual thought and, well, an original plot (if any at all). So I gave up on American horror cinema, as should you.
American moviegoers pretty much dismissed the idea of an Asian horror-monster film after a few Godzillas were made, but with the recent release of South Koreaís The Host, Iím hoping that our faith in this genre will once again be restored.
The Host isnít just a horror movie. Itís funny, visually stunning, politically satirical and highly entertaining. From the first scene of a scientist dumping highly toxic waste down a drain, it keeps you on the edge of your seat, always certain that an imminent doom is slowly approaching.
The film follows Park Gang-Du, a deadbeat salesman who milks off his father Hie-bongís eatery business, often falling asleep on the job and constantly consuming the merchandise. Along with his daughter Hyun-seo, they live in a shack by the Han River, where the dangerous chemicals were dumped years earlier. On this particular day, the creature that has been forming underneath the surface emerges, taking Gang-duís daughter captive and causing anarchy throughout the Seoul region.
Gang-du teams up with his father, his bronze-medal-winning Archer sister Nam-Joo and his drunken college graduate brother Nam-il to find Hyun-seo. They must escape the confines of a hospital, where the government has locked up Gang-du for his contact with the ďAgent YellowĒ virus-carrying monster, to go on the impossible mission of locating Hyun-seo in one of the Han Riverís thousands of sewers. Officials refuse to believe that Hyun-seo is actually alive, but suspect that the virus has invaded Gang-duís brain and made him delusional.
The Host takes you on a wild ride of emotions, all of which are never permanent from scene to scene. Some parts are hilarious, while others are touching ó yet it all seems to make sense. The filmmakers werenít hesitant to include commentary about the SARS and AIDS epidemics, and how the governmentís policies often clash with the publicís best interests.
The special effects are nothing short of extraordinary, and are better than any Iíve seen these past few years in American films. The monster is semi-scary, but whatís much more important is just how cool it looks. Itís more graceful than Godzilla, but a heck of a lot more unattractive. The creative and daring cinematography pays special attention to detail, something also often taken for granted in Hollywood. The Host isnít only enjoyable because of its wittiness and subtlety, but itís a joy to just look at as well.
At the beginning of The Host, youíre almost certain you can predict what is bound to happen, but an hour-and-a-half in and numerous plot twists later, you canít be sure whatís lurking around the corner. The monster sure is freaky-looking, but this genre-breaking film isnít just about the monster. Itís much more complex than that.
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