Gwoemul (The Host)

One of the fascinating things about watching a “Foreign Film” is seeing how one cultures perception of a given situation differentiates from your own countries. In the South Korean monster movie The Host we’re treated to a well put together monster movie that has no over exaggerated ideals of grandeur. A monster is created, it wreaks havoc on a small area and it is hunted. This isn’t a global epidemic, it’s a localized incident, something rare for a monster movie. The amphibious creature grows and mutates into a creature that is able to traverse on land as well through water; A predator that hunts just as openly during the day as it does at night. Rather than follow the governments efforts on destroying this threat, the story follows a single family as they seek to save¬† (The daughter of Kang-ho Song one, of the main characters) who has been captured by the monster.

The Host offers a unique perspective as we see the relationships between the various family members shortly before they are united in their quest to save the little girl. Kang-ho works with his father at a snack shack type of operation on the Han river. It is quickly shown that he is a loving, yet lazy, man with little ambition. His siblings include a brother who, though unemployed, feels himself more important than the rest of his family, constantly grumbling. He also has a sister who is a professional archer that often lets her nerves interfere with her profession. The family drama is equal parts devastating and hilarious. Through the over dramatic moments however shines a touching story that, though exaggerated, can be all too familiar. Old wounds and hurt feelings are set aside, the family is drawn together by a tragedy that they long to fix.

Along with the drama comes the monster. The great aquatic creature that emerges from the depths of the Han river is a truly unique monster. It’s interesting to look at and fun to see ordinary people fight back against it. The movie doesn’t adhere to the school of thought that keeps the monster hidden for the majority of the film. Within the first 15 minutes we see it in all it’s glory. It happens quick and it happens unexpectedly, which seems to add to the realism of the situation. Part of what makes the monster so hard to destroy is it’s speed and dexterity. It isn’t particularly a very durable monster, a few good hits from a big enough gun just might do the trick. It makes the monster seem incredibly powerful, yet not indestructible. I mention this because it makes the small hunting party that the family forms feel like they have a real chance against defeating the monster.

Ultimately, The Host, though flawed, is a charming little monster movie with humor to go along with the tragedy and terror. The film offers a sobering view of family relationships, responsibility and coping with tragedy. It also happens to be a very fun foreign “scary movie” to boot.

TrollHunter

TrollHunter is a Norwegian dark fantasy that uses the shaky camera method to tell a faux documentary about a man that works for the government to keep the troll population in check, namely stopping them from harming or being viewed by the public. A small group of college students track down the man, who they believe to be a bear poacher, wishing to expose his crimes on camera. They, naturally, get much more than they bargain for when they find out his real profession. The man agrees to let them tag along.  he is weary of his job and the of the fact that he has had to bear the secrets of his profession so long.

Like Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, TrollHunter takes a pretty absurd premise and approaches it with a serious face. The documentary style filming works to the advantage, special effects are used sparingly. Plenty is left to our imagination, a far more powerful tool than anything special effects has produced. Though effects are used little in comparison to other monster movies, we’re still given a satisfactory number of views of the titular beasts, albeit often times a little blurry. The movie is just as much a drama as it is a suspense or action film. Hans, the man that hunts the trolls, is a very interesting character. He’s essentially a mix between a secret agent and a park ranger. The incredible premise of hunting trolls appears to him a mundane task that he approaches with a high level of routine and habit. His troubles are only increased when he allows the students to follow him, which permeates the film with even more drama and plenty of room for character flaws and errors that put the whole group in danger.

The sparring use of special effects gives more room for story and character development, focusing on the film as a whole rather than the shiny polished look of a blockbuster. However, the film, despite it’s often gritty appearance, is excellently constructed, it’s scary when it should be and funny when it intends to be. the premise and title are certainly worth a chuckle, but the film on its own merits is powerful enough to draw you in and hold your attention for it’s entire run time.

The movie gets a little confusing at points, but not to the point of frustration. Rather the confusion ads to the larger than life premise, troll hunting, despite Hans efforts, is not an exact science that the audience should hope to grasp while watching it. Too often I tend to feel the need to fully understand the mechanics of the world in which a movie places itself, however if the characters aren’t even 100 percent sure, why should I be? TrollHunter throws both the characters and the viewers in the middle of something that has been going on for a very long time, it gives us plenty of information, but leaves us guessing and interested in a profession that would be simultaneously awesome and terrifying; a Troll Hunter