Gwoemul [The Host] (2006)

(On DVD, September 2008) This Korean monster movie is most notable for two things: First, for daring conventional wisdom by showing its monster early on, in full daylight, in the middle of a screaming crowd. That sequence is terrific, certainly among the best depiction of mass terror put on film, and promises much for the rest of the story. Alas, The Host is also famous for its refusal to play by the rules of Hollywood happy endings. So much so that the film ends with a sweeping wave of resentment and futility, as the object of the character’s sacrifices is dispensed with. It doesn’t help raise the overall appreciation of a film that is alternately depressing, slow, stupid and dull. The characters act in ways that are moronic enough to drive the plot forward, which makes it almost impossible to empathize for them. There are several plot-holes in the story which become impossible to justify over the several days that the story takes place: a tighter time-frame (a few hours, say) would have paved over several problems, but here they’re just excuses for knocking characters in unconsciousness, killing cell phones, gratuitous chases and incompetent military forces. There’s still a lot to admire about the film (I’m particularly impressed by the sequence in which the image of a Molotov-throwing rioter is transformed into an operatic slow-motion portrayal of a selfless hero), but it’s a film that seems almost determined to undermine any attempt at sympathy. After having seen Cloverfield, it’s not because it’s not from Hollywood that it’s necessarily better.

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