BFFF: The Host
It's hard to say what hasn't been already been said about The Host. Yes, it's a phenomenal monster movie. Yes, it serves as a savage indictment of the way bureaucracy is unable to deal with most anything major in this modern world. I couldn't help but see a little bit of Hurricane Katrina in the portrayal of the government. But there was something else I realized at some point. The whole film is very Hitchcockian in its focus, and the ending strongly reminded me of The 39 Steps.
This is your standard monster movie plot, except it's enlivened with a compelling family drama subplot. Like Godzilla before it, the monster is created by mankind, and we need to stop it. The main difference is that there is more to the story than just a monster terrorizing a city in South Korea.
The story centers Park Kang-du and his family. This includes his father, Hie-bong, his siblings, Nam-il and Nam-ju, and his daughter, Hyun-seo. When Hyun-seo is captured by the monster, the rest of the family must work together to rescue her and kill the monster. Sound bland and familiar? Yes it does. It sounds bland and familiar. But The Host manages to turn most of the conventions on their head. When we reach the final climactic battle with the monster, it isn't a highly coordinated plan of attack. The family doesn't really come together except near the beginning to mourn the apparent death of Hyun-seo.
The family scenes work extremely well, mainly because there is very little overacting and the dynamic feels genuine. Despite what they might say at one point or another, they deeply care for each other, and they are willing to do everything they can to save Hyun-seo. There is one scene of phenomenal overacting, but it comes off as comedic, and at this point in the film it fits the general tone. The early scenes have a much stronger comedic aspect to it, especially concerning the first appearance of the monster.
This scene is beautiful in its construct, if only because they have created, on a visual level, one of the greatest movie monsters I have ever seen. It first appears in broad daylight, wreaking havoc on everyone in the area. I was surprised to find myself laughing at the joke I could see coming a mile away of a woman listening to headphones and not noticing the people running away until she is hit in the face by the monster.
I spent most of the movie unsure of what I thought about it, until the very end. The final scene, at least a few weeks after the events that make up the movie, show two people eating their dinner with the news on in the background. We hear the beginning of the news program, when they announce that they are about to say whether or not the monster actually carried a virus (an important point through most of the film). And in true Hitchcock fashion, we don't get to hear the important report. We merely get our two characters turning off the television and returning to their dinner. It's nice to know the McGuffin is still alive and kicking. We don't really care about the report. We care about the new family that has been formed. Just as we should.