Featuring the entire dysfunctional Park family, it's a classic damselette-in-distress story when 12-year-old Hyun-seo is snapped up by a formaldehyde-deformed sea creature the size of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. She's deposited, alive, in a holding cell somewhere under in the sewer works of a bridge near the Han river. And while the monster seems perfectly content to chow down on other, more full-sized humans he's brought to his den, he holds off doing so with his little treat.
But Hyun-seo is not a Lolita-sized Fay Wray, Jessica Lange, or Naomi Watts love interest to the monster. We're pretty sure this "Kong" is just letting her marinate. Time is of the essence, of course, as the Parks are forcibly quarantined and must first escape to find and then save their little Hyun-seo.
The movie is laced with fairly brilliant touches of modern Korean humor, which translates very well into English, provided you let the uncompressed Korean soundtrack run native and opt for English subtitles. The English dub is just another Kung Fu Hustle, so avoid it at all costs.
Distributed on Blu-ray in the US by Magnolia Home Entertainment, The Host made a name for itself among the sci-fi/horror cognoscenti, and for good reason. The movie is enthralling in its way, and though predictable at times, the two-hour tale flies by. CGI quality is good, but not perfect, and the sea monster's movements on land are hopelessly garish enough to remind me of a retarded Barney on a rampage.
But the human tale is flawless and hardly stereotypical, and even the sea creature has a personality, albeit a troubled one. Most of all, the movie is fun and, except for the caveat of not being appropriate for very young children, it can be enjoyed by the family in ways most movies in this genre cannot. It thrills more than it chills, and it is all the better for it.
The opening scene in the neon-blue glow of a ceramic-tiled underground laboratory suggests the movie has excellent video quality in store, but it did let me down enough times to slightly affect my score. Crushed black levels in many of the night scenes and overblown whites in daylight segments caused me to dock it a few points. That said, detail was almost always amazing, and you get all 1080 pixels of vertical resolution pounded home.
The soundtrack is available in several flavors, in both English and Korean (uncompressed 5.1-channel PCM, 5.1 Dolby Digital at 448kbps, and 5.1 DTS at 1.5Mbps). It is enjoyable, if not completely remarkable. The most effective parts come during scenes with little action, where the sounds of the monster, the rain, and the breathing of terrified children enveloped me most effectively.
There are lots of extras on this disc, including a commentary track with the director, a "making of" video with interviews, storyboards, deleted scenes, and a "gag" reel certain to offend American sensibilities. There are even more extras that I don't care to list (or watch), but suffice to say, this Blu-ray offering is complete. Watch it in Korean with English subtitles for the most involving experience.
Release Date: March 25, 2008
Film: 7 out of 10
Picture: 8 out of 10
Sound: 7 out of 10
Sony PlayStation 3
JVC DLA-HD1 projector
Stewart StudioTek 1.3 screen (78" wide, 16:9)
Marantz SR8002 AVR
Martin Logan Prodigy, Request, Theater-i
Velodyne FSR-18 subwoofer
Speaker: Audioquest Montblanc
HDMI: various Monster