The Host makes you miss Johnny Sokko
Cast: Kang-Ho Song, Hie-Bong Byeon, Hae-il Park, Du-Na Bae, Ah-Sung Ko
Director: Joon Ho Bong
Storyline: Gobbledygook monster plays hide and seek in the sea before gobbling down the gooks.
Bottomline: Dubbed a disaster. Subtitles, please.
How you wish they hadn’t messed with the original and not dubbed this Korean visual effects masterpiece into English!
It is rather difficult to take this monster film seriously with the flippant, often distracting, dubbing. It’s almost like the dubbing artistes decided to have their bit of fun, taking digs at the film, the dialogue delivery sounding rather tongue-in-cheek.
Had it been subtitled and retained in Korean, ‘The Host’ (‘Gwoemul’ in Korean) would’ve been immensely watchable. In English, it sounds like a sequel to the Hong Kong-made madcap entertainer Kung Fu Hustle.
The story isn’t new to us Asians, especially to those of us who grew up watching Godzilla on the big screen or Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot on the small. We’ve seen creatures of all shapes and sizes on a rampage; assorted monsters on a munch-fest umpteen number of times. So why should we warm to ‘The Host’ today when it sounds like a spoof on the Grindhouse cinema of the seventies?
One, it works as a throwback to a bygone era, a homage made richer by state-of-the-art visual effects. Two, there seems to be some sort of poetry to the visuals with director opting for silence and quietness to add drama to the horror usually represented by characters shrieking loudly and running away. Here, they stand rooted in fear, terrified to even scream. Sometimes, the narrative distances itself from the thick of action and strives for objectivity and realism, even at the risk of making the sequences appear ridiculous. Sample a bunch of tourists on a bus who are briefed by their guide about the Han River look out only to witness a giant reptile chase scores of people all around the bank. Within moments, we are back in the middle of the bloody chase where a helpless father clutches the hands of his daughter and flees, only to turn back and look he has got hold of the wrong girl. The music goes quiet again and we feel for the character in the middle of all that comedy.
That’s the kind of movie ‘The Host’ is. Funny, unpredictable, moody, spectacular, cheesy and poignant.