The Host [Gwoemul] (2006)

The Host did something that seemed terribly unlikely back in the Nothings:  it breathed new life into the giant monster movie.

And what life!

After a brief intro that hints at the creature’s origins, we move from our first glimpses of the creature to a wild monster rampage down a crowded river walk in a matter of minutes.  This is no shrinking violet of a monster that waits until the last reel to let us get a good look at it:  instead, it couldn’t get more visible if it tried.

And what a monster it is!  It moves like a charging rhino and looks like nothing ever seen on the screen before.  It smashes into buildings and vehicles with incredible force, slaps people out of the way, or slashes them up, or grabs them with its prehensile tail – and even devours a few.

True, it isn’t Godzilla-sized, but it is big enough to do the job.  It’s been claimed that it’s supposed to be mutated from a starfish, but it looks more like a giant, overgrown newt.  Well, except for that horrible excuse for a face.

Perhaps it seems less striking now, as Cloverfield and other movies have since drawn inspiration from this beast.  Peter Jackson’s Weta studios provided the creature effects, but there’s no missing that it’s all been put together with consummate skill that give its interactions with the world – and hapless people – around it a compelling, hard-edged realism.

Korean director Joon Ho Bong had previously made just one film, yet he directs with the assurance of an old pro and takes his story in a lot of unexpected directions.  It is by turns comic, absurd, deadly serious, satiric and surprisingly emotional.  In particular, one might note the decidedly un-Hollywood ending – and yet one which, while not what the audience might have wanted, is relatively happy – at least for the broken (and very real) world of this film.

Okay, so stop making excuses and go watch this one.  I’ll let you wimp out and watch the inferior English dub.

But the subtitled original is better.

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