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The film revolves around Park Hee-bong, a man in his late 60s. He runs a small snack bar on the banks of the Han River and lives with his two sons, one daughter, and one granddaughter. The Parks seem to lead a quite ordinary and peaceful life, but maybe they are a bit poorer than the average Seoulite. Hee-bong's elder son Gang-du is an immature and incompetent man in his 40s, whose wife left home long ago. Nam-il is the youngest son, an unemployed grumbler, and daughter Nam-joo is an archery medalist and member of the national team. One day, an unidentified monster suddenly appears from the depths of the Han River and spreads panic and death, and Gang-du's daughter Hyun-seo is carried off by the monster and disappears. All of the family members are in a great agony because they lost someone very dear to them. But when they find out she is still alive, they resolve to save her. Written by
The Host is by far one of the best monster movies in years. The movie follows a bumbling young father, Gang-Do Park, and his family. The story starts like every monster movie; everything is calm and uneventful, "business as usual" you might say. When a mutated fish creature comes along the river bank and begins killing anyone in its path. Amidst all of the confusion, Gang-Do's daughter, Hyun-seo, is picked up by the monster and dragged back to the sewer. The story then turns into a search for Hyun-seo. Gang-Do and his family evade the authorities and use all the money they have to desperately continue their quest.
The reason I picked up this movie in the first place is because the box said that it was "on par with Jaws." I found this hard to believe but the monster in The Host is the one of the most cinematically pleasing CG creations in recent years and is probably the most original looking monster since Alien. It was legitimately scary looking and had a very unique style of moving that set it apart from previous monsters. Another strength of this monster is how well the CG is done. It does not just look like some computer generated figure spliced into live action footage. It looks like it belongs in the shot. The monster also has enough on screen time to make the movie suspenseful. The movie keeps the viewer wanting to see more of the monster while, at the same time, keeping them satisfied with the number of appearances.
The Park family does a pretty good job of keeping the audience entertained while the monster is off screen. The relationship that Gang-Do shares with his father, "college man" brother, and professional archer sister maintains a balance of drama and humor that the audience can appreciate. This dynamic seems strange but the movie makes it work. You start to really feel like these people are family. The best thing about these characters is that you are not disappointed when they are on the screen. Some monster movies seem to get kind of boring when the monster is off screen (Godzilla 1998).
The weakest thing about this movie, as it is with most foreign films, is the English translation and dubbing. After a while it becomes bearable but in the beginning it sounds absolutely awful. I don't say this very often because, like many Americans, I hate reading subtitles. But I think this one time I would have made the exception because the voice acting was just terrible. They just didn't seem to fit the characters very well. The dialogue in some scenes is very awkward as well. Some of the English translation just sounds out of place. This happens a lot with language barriers, however, and sometimes it just cannot be helped. If you want to watch something that is not meant to be in your language, you've just got to go with what you get.
I started off saying that this is one of the best monster movies in years, and it is. It's not perfect, but what monster movie is? It has some flaws but the originality of the monster and the simplicity of the plot makes this movie very easy to follow and worth watching at the very least. It is pretty good for what it is. The whole "monster terrorizing an Asian town" seems like it has been done a million times (because it has), but this movie has some new things to offer. Would I call this movie "on par with Jaws"? I wouldn't personally, but it is definitely better than some of the cheesy messes that monster movies have made in the past.
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