Apr 26, 2007

The Host

I wasn't sure I wanted to sit through a monster movie, but since the reviews were unanimously great, I relented and went to see this Korean movie, which may be the smartest monster movie ever, after King Kong. It's subversive spirit is a breath of fresh air, since this is a monster movie with a surprising dose of social satire, and an even more surprising dose of interesting human characters, not the standard monster movie heroes.
A horrid creature that looks like a bad fish, has grown in Seoul's river because of Americans (from the military base) dumping formaldehyde in the river. This horrid creature is a huge mutant fish with legs and a multiple jaw and it is reminiscent both of the shark of Jaws and the alien of Aliens and a gigantic catfish. It likes to devour people and also likes to keep people trapped in the gutters of Seoul for fun. I loved this creature because it was big but of manageable size. It was ugly but not that disgusting, it was smart and cunning and it somersaulted into the water and made pirouettes in gthe air with the elegance and grace of an Olympic diver.
The human protagonists are the most endearing family of misfits ever to grace a monster film. The father owns a little candy shack in a park next to the river, where he sells oodles of colorful junk food and instant ramen. One of his sons is a narcoleptic fuckup who has got to be the most bumbling, lazy human being in the history of Korea. His penchant for falling asleep in the most harrowing circumstances is the source of lots of mischievous fun. Another son is a drunk college dropout (the father put him through school selling ramen); a daughter is in the national archery team and although an amazing marksman, is incapable of shooting her arrows in time, so she never wins gold. The narcoleptic has a cute, smart little daughter, the only member of the family that has her wits about her. There are so many fun details about the lives and quirks of these people, that I bet Korean audiences had a blast, being represented by these unlikely heroes and seeing their society reflected with such sharp but loving observation. The father, for instance, a sweet, goodhearted man, is always trying to solve everything through bribes or connections. The brothers can't stop bickering. The things one assumes Korean society values highly: hard work, studying, industry, precision, restrained displays of emotion (the funniest scene takes place at a funeral), are lovingly skewered. It's so refreshing to see characters with more human quirks than your standard issue wisecracking American heroes. This movie owes a lot to the likes of ET in terms of character, but it finds much more nuance, and much more true feeling than we're used to in our homemade entertainments. For horrible things happen to this family, some of them hilarious and others quite sad, and the movie keeps challenging the clichés that we are used to expect in this kind of genre. The end result is that you deeply care for this bunch of losers who become heroes despite their major limitations and who, despite their constant bickering, are held together by the bond of family love.

No comments:

Post a Comment