I must not be the obsessive fan boy that others in the Internet-based film geek community are (which would explain my disdain for "Serenity") because I watched this with the understanding that it was a kick ass monster film.
Instead, it’s a flat, slow, over-the-top monster film with bursts of greatness followed by loooong stretches of boring. I won’t argue that the film does itself a great service by not sticking to the basics of the formula and in that regard "The Host" is a heck of a good idea.
But the execution, frankly, sucks.
The film starts with an elderly American doctor instructing his younger Korean assistant to pour a ton of dusty chemicals down the drain even though it will lead straight into the mighty Han River. We’re then introduced to members of a family apparently governed by two idiots.
The patriarch of the family worries about his dimwitted son screwing up their business which is a little snack shack by the Han. The son has a daughter who is clearly smarter than either him or the patriarch, and she proves to be the grounded center of the film.
This is all about 10 minutes in which is when we get our first look at the monster. Credit is due to the film makers for not hiding it because you know right from the start what exactly the family is up against. The monster is basically a giant mutated fish, but the film makers treat it as a genuine animal.
It’s not just a killing machine despite the carnage it wrecks. The thing moves and acts like a wild animal would which is that it will attack when provoked and retreat when threatened. The downside is it looks fairly silly, and that silliness is magnified by the family’s reactions when it snatches the little girl.
The family is in a triage mourning and the way they just fell apart on the floor cracked me up. Somehow I doubt that’s what the director was going for. There are tons of genuinely funny moments, especially the biohazard suit wearing guy who walks into the triage with a megaphone. His reaction to the news cast had me howling. The family is taken to a hospital but when they get a phone call from the little girl who is clearly still alive, the family decides to take action and get the girl back.
I’d find everything far more believable if the two leaders of the family weren’t so completely bone stupid. When the little girl’s dad keeps falling asleep despite the situation, yet somehow has moments of clarity, it feels like the film wants to have it both ways. If he was going to start dumb and useless but end up on top of things that would be one thing, the formula if you will. But when the characters start stupid, have flashes of intelligence at just the right moments but then slip right back into Stupidville, I call shenanigans.
I give the film a lot of credit for bringing the funny and for not adhering to the standard monster movie formula, but the big finale doesn’t feel earned and the ending just kind of sits there. It doesn’t help that the characters are more a mess of jumbled contradictions than genuine people and that doesn’t fly when you need the story to move forward based on something more than an idiot having a spontaneous idea.
"The Host" is alright, but it’s no where near worth the accolades showered upon it by the Internet community.