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February 08, 2007

The Host


Bong Joon-ho - 2006
J-Bics Region 3 DVD

Am I missing something here? I finally saw The Host, the critically praised monster movie that's played at prestigious film festivals. Throughout a good part of the film I kept asking myself one question: Have these festival programmers never watched the Sci-Fi channel?

Sure, The Host is smarter and sharper than the typical Sci-Fi channel creature feature, as is the monster. But I still felt like I was watching the movie Roger Corman might have made had he been willing to spend more money on special effects and was Korean. I scanned a couple of reviews that pointed out how the film was a parable and satire of Korean politics and the SARS scare and those old standards, arrogant scientists and government cover-ups. And I agree that the giant tadpole-fish-monster was impressive for a CGI creature. But even a film like Frankenfish has its moments of pretense. I'm not certain if there isn't a monster movie that doesn't make the claim that it's really a parable about science gone wrong, man versus God, or the evils of big business and/or big government.

Part of me is thrilled at the idea of a monster movie playing the art house circuit. That's where one could see Asian horror films like Ju-On and The Eye before the films were remade by Hollywood. The problem with The Host has more to do with the impossible expectations created by showcasing the film in places like Cannes and Toronto. To be fair, I still plan on seeing other films by Bong such as Memories of Murder. I also need to stress that I enjoyed the film, even the totally anticipated killing of the monster.

It might be that the festival programmers are film lovers whose guilty pleasures include such works as Eugene Lourie's Gorgo, Larry Cohen's Q, or even John Frankenheimer's The Prophesy. I feel uncomfortable knowing that The Host premiered in New York City alongside films by Alain Resnais and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. There's no fun in watching a monster movie if its been given the seal of approval from Gilles Jacob or Richard Pena. One can only hope that these highbrow programmers will have learned their lesson once and for all, and start planning career retrospectives for Bert I. Gordon and Inoshiro Honda.

Posted by peter at February 8, 2007 04:15 AM