Get ready for THE HOST
Did you ever expect to see THE BLOB 88 meets LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE? Are you ready to love it?
I have just seen the return of the Monster movie, courtesy of Korean director Joon-ho Bong.
At the AFI festival, a bunch of the Fright Club went to see THE HOST, which has been making buzz waves for the past few months on the festival route, and I sat there, rapt, for its entire running time. I was a huge fan of the director's previous effort MEMORIES OF A MURDER (which you can get on netflix) which has an odd, Spielberg-meets-Friedkin-meets-Kurosawaa spin on the serial killer genre, and that same type of attention to detail with the story, the characters and the camera style was applied to the well worn Monster on the loose story. I was fucking blown away.
It's very hard these days to do an effective take on the Monster genre, where the horror these days is coming from a more realistic template ("torture porn" anyone?) Anyone who says that Horror isn't a mirror, not just an exploitation, on our own fractured culture is clearly watching too much Bill O'Reily, and currently movies like SAW, HOSTEL and the ilk are based on real people doing really nasty things. No ghosts, no vamps, no zombies...and it's striking a nerve. But with Monster movies, most times you have to add the fantastic to inject believability, but it should be the opposite, which is what the HOST does so well. Bong takes a dysfunctional family and throws them into the melee, putting them in the way of a freak mutation terrorizing the coast of North Korea, and focuses on THEM, not the world dealing with the monster, not presidents or scientists debating its danger and what to do; the movie is totally grounded because we follow the family and how they deal with loss, with hope, with coming together in a time of need to fight to survive. Instead of taking the Rolland Emmerich route like INDEPENDENCE DAY, Bong instead takes a nod from Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS (or even Stephen King's kick ass CELL novel) by keeping the camera on the fucked up family members, even in the biggest of suspense set-pieces (the first "attack" is a modern classic like the "Lawyer meal" scene in JURASSIC PARK) and by doing this allows us to believe the monster, because we see real consequences, not "ok monster kills 100 people, moving on to military strike" bullshit. THIS is how monster movies should be, and it totally inspired me to bring THE OZONERS back in my head. What's THE OZONERS you may ask? You'll see....
I will say the film isn't perfect. There's some pacing moments, and a subplot that was set up well but never followed through, but the biggest caveat was the use of CG for the monster. I LOVED the design and most of the effects of the monster and how Bong and his DP (who was also in attendance at the screening) shot it with a Verite feel,and hell if I didn't FEEL for the monster at times, but being a product of the 80's horror, a practical monster will always be better than pixel magic. It was only a few times that I noticed it, but its a minor quibble.
Afterwards a Q&A ensued, and one attendee asked "What will you do to ensure that some american director will not screw up this with a remake", not knowing that the film's remake rights were sold earlier this week! Bong was quite diplomatic, saying "we respect the Universal Executives that they will do a good job" or something like that...but I kinda agree with the consensus of the audience. THERE IS NO NEED TO REMAKE THIS. It's understandable when there are culture differences that are hard to translate overseas, but to remake this is like remaking SHAUN OF THE DEAD; totally unnecessary. If Universal was smart, they would push the hell out of the January release of the original over here (thanks Magnolia Releasing) and then do an EVIL DEAD 2-ish "RE-QUEL" (oooh I like that) where it can tell the same TYPE of story (say the focus is on a different family on our soil; there ARE a lot of families over here so many stories to tell) but have it be an extension of the original film, so they can play together, not try to re-capture the magic from the first one. This film is almost too perfect to taint with a redux.
If you get a chance to see it (being released in January in the US), PLEASE seek out THE HOST. It's a monster movie with heart.
Check out the trailer for the film HERE
PS: The BORAT era is finally over. Sure it will be Number 1 this weekend (Yay!) but you will officially be taint punched is "Ver Nizze" or "Ssexy Time" is uttered again in public. The movie? Very funny. "Funniest Movie Ever made?" No way. To me, a comedy classic is when you can watch a movie over and over and its as funny, if not FUNNIER, upon repeat viewings. I can say that I might NEVER see BORAT again; the shock comedy works well the first time, and Cohen is so gifted, but I think it's already jumped the shark (or the Sister/Hooker, to be relevant)....let's see how it does NEXT weekend.