Friday, November 10, 2006

THE HOST/GWOEMUL - Shut up and scare me!

It looks like Godzilla, but due to international copyright laws - it's not. It is a testament to how much fun it is to watch a bunch of people being chased by an obviously CGI mutant beastie that THE HOST manages to be mildly entertaining despite its haphazard attempt at social and political commentary. The movie opens in contemporary Seoul, with a evil American* telling a spineless but horified Korean to pour a bunch of nasty chemicals down the sink and straight into the Han river. A couple of years later and a nasty fish-lizard -beastyie comes bounding out of the river eating Koreans and tourists and doing impressive back-flips. Now, let's be clear. This movie is NOT a horror movie. The beast is so obviously CGI - so ludicrously blundering in its movements - that you simply cannot be scared by it. The comedy also under-cuts the horror. The sweet school-girl has just been swiped by the beast and supposedly killed and we should presumably feel horrified by this fact. But then we cut to a mildly funny slapstick scene in which her squabbling family are simultaneously wailing and beating each other up. This is shortly followed by a scene where the family are escaping from a detention hall that could come straight out of a cartoon - complete with kitsch music.

The point is that this movie is fun rather than horrifying - silly rather than scary. If it had stuck to this simple mission it would've been worth a look. Problem is, it has delusions of grandeur and wants to make some kind of point about - and here I'm guessing - America's malign power over client states such as Korea; the evil of polluting the environment; how governments lie to their citizens....I say I'm guessing because the movie never really takes aim at anything in particular. Rather it throws random accusations and motifs in the air like so much confetti - including a pretty major plot strand about how the evil monster is THE HOST of a nasty SARS-like virus. That plot strand - the one that gives the movie its name(!) - is just left to fizzle out. Overall then, THE HOST is a bit of a mess - mildly entertaining and worth catching on TV - but hardly worth a trip to the cineplex.

*At this point, having been warned of the movie's anti-American stance by the reviews, I thought: "Oh no!" If I go to see a mindless evil monster B-movie then that's what I want: not a bunch of agitprop. However, it turns out that this story - a story that I had assumed was just crass anti-americanism - is based in fact! Still, it's a big leap from saying one american was reckless to saying ALL americans have the environmental record of Dubya.

THE HOST/GWOEMUL played Cannes and Toronto 2006. It went on release in South Korea, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan earlier this year. It is currently on release in the UK, opens in France in a fortnight and in the US and Spain in January and February respectively.

1 comment:

  1. AT LAST a (at least partially) negative review about this dire film. It blows my mind to see how the vast majority of reviewers think this film is "a rollercoaster", "laugh out loud", "intelligent" etc - I'd say it's the complete opposite of all those things.