We managed to score some passes for The Host - conveniently on a Tuesday night. I only knew a bit about the movie from the preview and a bit of hype from twitchfilm.net and aicn and a couple of other sources but all in all just figured it was going to be a Korean monster movie. It was a Korean monster movie but it was definitely more of a school of nature striking back at man a.k.a. "What have we done?" instead of booga-booga gonna eatcha monster.
Basically it's the story of a charming disfunctional family versus a big gnarly genetic mutant river monster. I can understand the comparisons to Jaws but in my opinion it was more like Close Encounters of the Third Kind - as far as creepiness, fear of the government, and feel. I enjoyed The Host but honestly feel that I missed a majority of the references, jokes, satire, and social commentary simply because I am not South Korean. According to the sites I've checked out The Host has broken Korean box office records.
Bong Joon-Ho's interview with Cineaste is an interesting read and makes the movie a bit more enjoyable. I do think it's interesting that The Host is considered an anti-American movie. I understood that the American military doctor was the bad guy. The fact that the beginning of the movie/beast creation was based on fact - a guy was ordered to pour a massive amount of formaldehyde down the drain into the Han river lends the movie a certain creepiness. This doesn't strike me as anti-American though - shifty government scientists have been fucking up nature and mankind in our horror movies for decades.
I don't think that The Host will do well in American theaters, not because of the anti-American sentiment but because we like our monster movies loud, violent, scary, and hardcore. The Host has too many head-scratching moments that get shrugged off because of cultural differences. I recommend the movie to any of you folks who are Asian cinema fans or fans of a more sophisticated monster movie. Of course there's already talk of The Host being remade by Hollywood so if you want to wait and see something stupid, loud, and generally crappy then just be patient.