With The Host, we hit the first sour note of the festival. According to the festival film guide, this monster movie "juggles sci-fi thrills, slapstick comedy, and subtle political critiques." Although there are hints of all those elements, the film doesn't really deliver on them.
It wasn't really bad--by which I mean we didn’t walk out of it (last year’s RR) or wish we had (Idiots and Angels). Mostly, I was let down because of my own expectations. I was expecting a funny monster movie--one along the lines of Tremors, perhaps--and while there were some funny moments, especially at the beginning, the movie got dark early and stayed dark. As for the "political critique," the U.S. government poisoning the world and butting into another country's business has been done better, as has government-created public hysteria and paranoia.
The film works best as a sci-fi monster flick. Resembling a giant catfish with legs and a long whip-like tail, the monster's quick, acrobatic, and quite frightening. It runs, dives, swims, and swings from bridges. The opening crowd chase scene, during which the monster snatches a middle-school girl with his tail and dives into the Han River with her, is one of the best I've ever seen. After this event, the authorities evacuate the area, and the girl's squabbling, dysfunctional family--father, grandpa, aunt, and uncles--who believes she's still alive, breaks into the quarantined area in search of her.
The Host worked for me up to a point. As a comedy, briefly. As a monster flick, a little longer. I'm not sure where or how it lost me.
Maybe it was when the grandfather died. Maybe it was because it went on too long. For sure, it lost me when the brave little girl was killed. Bad idea. You just can't kill a child in a movie, especially toward the end when we're sure she's gonna make it, and expect not to lose a star.
Could've been a solid "3" for a monster flick, but it lost 1/2 a star. And you know why.
Thursday's Film Ratings (outta 5):
The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls ****
The Host **1/2