GWOEMUL

Gwoemul

 

(THE HOST)

 

I saw this film again, in preparation for Bong Joon-Ho’s critically acclaimed new film “Mother.” I had seen it when it had first come around theatres a few years back and was impressed by its effective combination of true monster-scare-action with true off-the-wall humor. I was also impressed with the energy of the film’s set piece: when the monster is first introduced and runs amuck in long, fluid tracking shots. And I knew I would never forget the scene of tragedy and dark-dark humor when the main family reunites in a quarantine ward and realize that the youngest member has been claimed by the monster.

The film is smart, in that it doesn’t need to telegraph things. Or, more correctly: if it telegraphs things, it is to comedic effect. Otherwise, it trusts its audience to participate. Notice the shot early in the film when a crowd of people notice…well, something, hanging from the bridge. The camera shoots from their perspective; their distance. We can’t be sure what it is. Neither are they. This builds the tension and allows such ridiculous events as occur in the film a level of reality.

Not everything works, of course. The bow-and-arrow sister occasionally becomes too much. Towards the end of the feature one begins to feel that Joon-Ho’s gambling act has failed him. Since the beginning of the film he has stacked the chips against him and still managed to pull off an amazingly entertaining film. How does he do it? Well, towards the end, the stack begins to tilt (perhaps even fall a bit) as events have swirled so far down and everything is so out of whack that the audience sighs: enough is enough. And zaniness reigns.

What makes this film unique is how Joon-Ho plays with moods and feeling. He sets us off kilter not only during scenes of tension but scenes of supposed seriousness that just go way over the top. This is interesting, but then again, it prevents the film from becoming something akin to “Jaws,” in which the menace is always serious and the tension can be cut with a shark’s tooth. Life and death were on the line in that film. It is very hard for people to die in this film.

But, we already have a “Jaws.” What we didn’t have, prior to this, was a “Gwoemul.” And now we do.

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