The Host, Directed by Joon-ho Bong, 2006
Is The Host really a science fiction film? Nah, not really.
But it's also not a horror film. Nor is it an action film. It's not even a dysfunctional family comedy. It's actually all of these things at once, miraculously blending genres in a way that has absolutely no right to work but somehow does.
The Host opens with an amazing sequence: a monster emerges from the water and rampages through a South Korean park, tearing many unfortunate folks asunder. It's true that this scene is stunningly shot and truly scary, placing you in a "panicking crowd scene" unlike any other. It's also true that the entire film could have played like this and have been a successful genre picture.
But what makes The Host special is that our cast of characters are beautifully drawn, lovable losers: a grandfather, his three grown children and a granddaughter, all of them screw-ups in one way or another. Amidst the monster mayhem, director Joon-ho Bong finds time for clever banter, sibling rivalry and even a hilarious scene of physical comedy (at a memorial service, no less). I could have watched an entire movie about this family going through their various daily activities, so putting them in a monster movie is just damn inspired. I truly cared about what happened to them and when one of them doesn't make it to the end credits, well...I just felt shattered.
I think The Host runs out of steam in its second half, but it's beautifully shot and never dull. Just when you think the movie has played all of its cards, it pulls something new out. If you had told me beforehand that this movie had time to also be a bitter satire on American involvement and tampering in the South Korean government, I wouldn't have believed you.
But it finds the time. Somehow. This is an amazing movie.