Gwoemul (The Host)(2006)
Great Entertainment With Brilliant Moments from Bong Jun Ho
The Host is a film that people have been talking about a lot during its
production and the teasers and posters I'd seen to date had gotten me
pretty interested. So when it was announced for the Edinburgh
International Film Festival this year I had to go and see it.
I have to say I was more than impressed with what I saw. The Host is a
film that provides something of everything from suspense to terror,
from drama to a little touch of comedy, this film has it all. What's
more surprising is that it delivers all of them very well and provides
great entertainment on the way.
The opening of the film is perhaps one of the strongest I've seen.
Starting with introductions to some of the main characters we instantly
get a feel for who they are and what they are about, all the time with
a healthy amount of humour. The first appearance of the creature is
viewed quite satirically, or rather the peoples attitude and "car
crash" mentality is.
Then when it races through a busy park attacking people, it's probably
the best portrayal of group blind panic I've seen, and coupled with
some excellent edge of your seat and distressing scenes. The shot of
the girl standing in shock is one of the most disturbing scenes you'll
witness, it's not something you'd expect to happen in a typical film
and it's indicative of scenes to come.
Throughout the film you'll be toyed with, there are the usual
straightforward scares, and one so effective I leapt out of my seat.
There are also moments like the opening one at the park, where the
unexpected happens and you really do get a surprise at the direction
the story has just taken.
There are other similar incredibly strong moments that will hit you
with a shock, and they seem out of place and going against what you
believe should be happening. I felt myself looking at the screen in
surprise thinking "That's not fair!", and that's a great response to
The frequent humour is an aspect of the story that is really well
handled, it never detracts from other areas of the story, and often
helps to relax a tense or distressing moment in order for the
filmmakers to return to the situation and build it up again. Sneaky
One of the oddest moments is when the family are mourning wildly in the
school hall, this begins sadly and slowly, building in your
uncomfortableness and sadness. Then something strange happens, they
just manage to tip the performance into humour, just enough to lighten
the situation and raise a few sniggers. Then photographers and film
crews descend and we're presented with an interesting social
commentary, yet you're still feeling the humour of the moment and just
coming out from the sadness of the family. It's all wonderfully woven
The leads are good, particularly the young girl, Park Hyun-seo played
by Ah-sung Ko, who is very convincing and strong in character. At times
the emotions she shows are so natural and believable, you'll find
yourself caught up in her scenes.
The other characters continually walk that fine line between comedic
and serious performances. Each of them have their flaws which are shown
throughout the film, but in the end each get their chance to redeem
themselves and sometimes they get multiple chances, often they need
That raises another interesting aspect, instead of following a standard
route with the characters, their development follows the unusual turns
of the film itself and we're treated to surprises and failures when we
don't really expect them. Indeed you could almost say that these
characters are more human than many fully focused dramatic character
The creature effects in this film are quite superb. It has weight and a
natural, organic movement. So often CGI creatures will appear to run
over the ground or not properly interact and collide with real life
objects, here though every effort has been made to address this, and it
I don't believe I'm spoiling anything about the movie when I say that
the ending seems slightly flat against the amount of entertainment that
the rest of the film has managed to deliver. It wraps everything up
incredibly neatly, with each character having had their shot at
redemption. Yet it was a little too neatly tied up for me, although it
didn't detract from anything else the film gave.
I'd recommend this film even for those not interested in Asian Horror,
for this can't be classed alongside what you would expect from a
typical Asian Horror, indeed there's not even a lot of horror. This is
a suspenseful, thriller, drama, comedy, you're getting the idea. It's
great entertainment with some brilliant moments of shock and terror.
Well worth watching.