Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Host

It seems like a crappy horror movie is released every other day. With the exception of 28 Days Later, which was mostly terrifying (and the sequel looks worth a viewing, too), most decent entries in the genre these days are of the twisted scary-funny model that's probably been around a lot longer than Scream, but not in such a mainstream way. This model may have reached its peak with Shaun of the Dead. The Host is also very good, though its laughs are often so oddball that they stem more from strangeness than humor.

Because I pride myself on having plugged-in readers (except for three of you, and you know who you are -- good lord, you three, get a clue), I'll assume you know most everything about this movie already. You've probably seen it four times. You might have a bed sheet with the monster on it.

The monster is the problem for me. (Well, the monster and the editing. The Host would be even stronger minus about 20 minutes.) There's a moment very early on that's one of the coolest and creepiest I've seen in a while, as a group of South Koreans (the movie is set in Seoul) watch from a distance as the titular beast hangs from the underside of a bridge and then slowly drops into the river. Eventually, we see the monster -- repeatedly -- up close. And it's well made -- it looks real, but only in the way that Nerf products are real. Despite all the advances in technology, monsters and otherworldly villains and deep space seem to be getting harder to believe. Think of Star Wars -- yes, the first movie, which had all the visual sophistication of an Atari 2600 game, looked silly. But I honestly think it looked better than the perfect but completely sterile backdrops of The Phantom Menace. I guess I'm more distracted by excess perfection than excess crudity. After all, the world is far more crude than perfect, so why that shouldn't be reflected on the screen?

That very brief scene on the bridge is terrific. And there are many beautifully framed moments throughout, and the closing shot is gorgeous, and overall I'd recommend that you see it (for the fifth time; and buy the matching pillowcase). But after the creature disappears from sight, it next shows up bounding along the banks of the river in all its glory (very close behind the people pictured above, as you may have guessed), looking like the love child of Godzilla and Jar Jar Binks. I liked the view better from afar.



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