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The Host: Movie Review

Yesterday, I went to see The Host with docfoster and another friend at the Gettysburg Majestic. It was my second time there, but the first I noticed that every row had what we called "a big butt" seat, a double-wide built for people who don't nicely fit into regular seats (I sat in a regular one, thank you very much).

The Host is South Korea's very effective foray into the classical monster movie and I will tell you it was excellent. Unlike what comes out of Hollywood today, the movie didn't star a monster killing off people, but a family of very likeable people dealing with a much larger problem.

The basic plot is a mutated creature caused by the dumping of toxic chemicals into the Han River by arrogant Americans, but the film actually starts introducing you to the major characters:

Hee-bong is an elderly man who runs a snack-bar along the Han River with his oldest adult son, a rather dim-witted Park Gang-du. Hee-bong also has a younger daughter, Nam-joo, and an Olympic medalist archer, and a younger son, Nam-il who is an unemployed, alcoholic college graduate.

The light of everybody's life is 13-year-old Hyun-seo, Gang-du's only daughter from a past relationship where the mother left after giving birth.

The fun starts when people visiting a park alongside the Han River see some weird thing hanging off a bridge spanning the Han River. A mutation slightly smaller than an 18-wheel truck, it attacks the crowd and succeeds in dragging off Hyun-seo with its prehensile tail. The family believe her dead until they get a phone call from the young girl's cell phone. She's still alive and trapped somewhere in the city's sewer complex. As nobody believes them, her grandfather, father, aunt, and uncle go looking for her.

I loved the movie except for one element: for all her family's hard labor and pain, Hyun-seo dies in the end even though she gives up her life to save the life of another innocent. This is a weird trend I see in foreign films.

In American films, we know that if we see a faithful dog in a drama film, they'll be burying that dog before the end of the film (unless it's the Where The Red Fern Grows where they bury two dogs).

We kill off our dogs, the other guys kill off little girls, but they always die nobly. In Pan's Labyrinth, Ofelia dies protecting the life of her half-brother. In The Host, Hyun-seo gives up her life to spare the life of an orphan taken by the monster. In the French film, Faithless, Isabelle is just driven completely insane because she is more mature than any of the adults around her.

Gives me chills.

I have been told that some American film company wants to film an American version of The Host. I'm telling you now it will be a total failure. They'll emphasize the monster over the wonderful human relationships in the Korean version and then wonder why the movie bombed.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 30th, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
I've seen that trend too, especially in major Japanese anime--but definitely not limited to that.

I would attribute it to extra-USA cultures having a far stronger belief in the spiritual/afterlife. I've seen a lot of good self-sacrifice tales, and loved them. I've also seen a lot of senseless "main character saves the world, but dies anyways" and hated them. Either way, the reasoning is always tied to the concept of reincarnation, spiritual escape (think Bhuddism), or some sort of reward in the afterlife.

In the USA, the TRUE spiritual is shunned. It's OK as long as everyone else dies EXCEPT the main character...because that main character is us. Ironically enough, often times the thing that is killing everyone IS these spiritual concepts.

Is the culture of the USA that afraid of death and religeon?
Apr. 30th, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
Maybe it's because girls aren't very highly valued in traditional Korean culture? It's more noble for her to die saving another than to selfishly save her own life, or something?

And glad you liked the film.
May. 1st, 2007 12:43 am (UTC)
Hyun Seo dies!!!!!
I'm gonna like cry now or something!
We watched part of it in my Korean class
And in Korean it's just called "Monster" ... nothing fancy
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )