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[MOVIE REVIEW] Bong's film reveals monster in all of us

2006/07/27 Source

Sometimes, horror is best created by staring at something very familiar from a slightly different angle. Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, was the one who understood this simple truth very well. He didn't try to bring life back to zombies or create hideous space creatures, but as far as horror or suspense film goes, he was an absolute winner.

Among local filmmakers, Bong Joon-ho, director of the new film The Host, seems to be the closest to the legendary British-American film director in terms of his fabulous techniques.

Like his previous film "Memories of Murder", this new film also provides a wonderful example of how to terrify audiences with seemingly minor (but hugely important) factors, such as cameral angles, music and sound effects.

Although the film has been largely promoted as a monster film (it does feature a horrifying mutant monster), it has much more than that, which makes the otherwise slightly better-than-average (by Hollywood standards) more effective than almost any Jurassic dinosaurs or aliens in the history of the genre. It doesn't mean that The Host is a low-budget film. The film cost about 11 billion won ($11.15 million) to make, 1.4 billion won more than the other recent blockbuster "Hanbando". Almost half of the budget was spent on creating the amphibian beast.

The great thing about the monstrous character does not from the character alone, but from well-directed interactions among all of the film' s components, including acting and plot.

When talking about the acting, Bong said that it was depressing to see the film's stars, including Song Kang-ho and Bae Doona, act as if there were a monster chasing after them under the Dongjak Bridge, which crosses the Han River. The people passing nearby giggled at the scene.

With the monster chasing them on the screen, however, it all becomes real, good enough to hold your full attention.

The monster shows up seemingly out of the blue near the Han River to attack and devour people. Among those chased and abducted is Hyun-seo (Go Ah-seong), a teen daughter of Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho). He is a family man who runs a small kiosk on the riverside.

The once-ordinary citizen Gang-du and his family are now thrust into a battle with the monster to rescue Hyun-seo. On the banks of the river that are completely closed off by the government, Gang-du and his family rush into an unstoppable showdown with the creature.

The film, however, is not a simple fantasy adventure as one could prematurely judge from its story. In fact, the film features much more dangerous monsters than the unidentified creature: people spreading viruses named distrust and prejudice.

In the film, a high-ranking U.S. officer orders the illegal dumping of toxic chemicals into the Han River, based on a real accident that occurred in 2000. In another scene, a very close friend of Nam-il (Park Hae-il) betrays him for bounty.

In this sense, the film can be seen as an extension of "Memories of Murder", in which an impotent and corrupt system is depicted to worsen tragedies (murders in this case).

The Host is released nationwide today.

By Lee Yong-sung

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