On second viewing, Bong Joon-ho’s upcoming monster smash hit is still a thrill, and it also reveals just how exquisitely crafted it is. The cinematography is outstanding, and the film is stuffed with oddball humor and details that resonate and multiply, giving the characters real life above and beyond the necessities of mutant fodder. There’s also a sly political sensibility at work — who has ever seen such an enthusiastic celebration of the molotov cocktail?
There’s talk about a Hollywood remake, but that’s just ridiculous. The Host is itself imported from any number of American horror films, overlaid with a peculiar South Korean auteur’s preoccupations. To remake it in this country would be as idiotic as remaking A bout de souffle (which, of course, they did.) What makes The Host so special is the way Bong quotes and twists genre cliches and adds a thousand small touches: a hero who has coins stuck to his face when we first meet him, lazy-eyed scientists, the moment’s wait before the ramen is cooked, van jokes that outdo anything in Little Miss Sunshine, an 11th-hour speech about the lack of protein, a disposable fisherman who worries about his daughter’s plastic cup, untrustworthy salarymen who fret about taxation on reward monies, the finale of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest replayed as farce, and a terrificly slippery, tentacled monster with an endless supply of surprise moves. The Host is full of specificity and character, but also satisfies (almost) all of our genre expectations. A hell of a lot of fun. Now scheduled to open on March 9. I have some footage from the NYFF press conference with Bong that I may finally put on YouTube….
Gwoemul. Bong Joon-ho, 2006. *****
Here’s the trailer, which doesn’t really do it justice: