Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Host [Gwoemul] (2006)

Following a formaldehyde dump into the Han River, a dinosaur-creature emerges from the depths, hungry for man-flesh. Was it activated by the toxic waste, or created by it? Does it matter? This vintage monster-movie formula is an excellent mix of comedy and dysfunctional family pathos as, after snacking on several full-size humans, the monster drags young schoolgirl Hyun-seo underwater, presumably as a treat for later. Trapped in the creature's lair, deep in the, uh, bowels of the city sewer system, Hyun-seo finds a cellphone and manages to alert her waste-case father, Gang-du, to the fact that she's alive and could need a little rescue -- though naturally the signal breaks up, the phone goes dead, just before she can reveal her location. Another hurdle: any contact with the creature means you're the carrier of a deadly, contagious virus -- and Gang-du got up-close and personal with the beast during its initial riverbank rampage. Agents in hazmat uniforms track him down, isolate him, instigate a series of torturous tests ... while Hyun-seo, awaiting rescue from her sewer hidey-hole, can't escape the snapping jaws of the hungry beast forever ... Perfect drive-in fodder. The formula satisfies and never strains beneath its own weight, or takes itself too seriously, even when offering pointed social commentary (the formaldehyde dumping and Agent Orange allusions are well grounded in actual events) -- just enough originality and genuine jump-scares to keep the proceedings fresh. Compare this to the wretched Godzilla (1998) for a good lesson in the right and wrong ways to make a latter-day Creature Feature.

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