"The Host: 2-Disc Collectors Edition" DVD Review
July 23, 2007 by Zach Demeter
A note to those disturbed by the thought of The Host: while the film is about a genetically mutated creature that lives in the Han River, the film is not in the least bit frightening to watch. When this DVD arrived I was extremely hesitant to begin watching it and after reading up on it online and discovering all of the praise the film received, my desire to watch the film went from “none” to “intrigued.”
The Host details the mutation of a creature (or series of creatures) in the Hans River after chemicals from a nearby hospital were dumped down the drain. As the years go by, this creature slowly grows larger and larger and when a businessman commits suicide by jumping into the Hans River, the creature gets a taste for humans. Eventually the creature comes ashore to those sitting on the riverside and captures several of them to take down below, including the daughter of Park Gang-Hu, a slacker who owns a food store along the river with his father. When Gang-Hu’s daughter, Hyun-seo, is taken, the family fears the worst and it isn’t until later on when they’re hospitalized for coming into contact with the monster directly do they learn that Hyun-seo is still alive.
Before watching the film, someone told me that the film was like Little Miss Sunshine meets Jaws and even by going on as little as I knew about the film prior to delving into the DVD release, I thought he was crazy. Oddly enough, he was surprisingly accurate with this description. There is a surprising amount of humor in this film and I found myself laughing at times I don’t think were entirely appropriate, which made me wonder just what kind of film I was watching. Still, I stuck with the film and was rewarded with a lot of strong character scenes that built up the family before they ended up dispersing in the second act of the film.
There really wasn’t any element of the film that truly “scared” me enough to call this a horror movie. I have a fear of water and things in water (which stems from a video game that scared the crap out of me as a kid) and this movie certainly didn’t have enough monster to scare me in the least. Whenever the monster was on screen, he was clearly visible and there just wasn’t anything that made me jump. It wasn’t that the Host wasn’t believable when you looked at it (although it was a bit “shiny” looking at times—the CGI was almost too clean), it just wasn’t that scary of a creature. Combine it with the humorous aspects of the film and it’s more of a summer action/adventure type film than a true horror/thriller…aside from the bone vomiting scene, as that was rather disturbing to watch.
Despite the lack of scares, however, the film does pack in a good story and excellently fleshed out characters. The death of some of the characters came as unexpected in some cases and was perhaps the only true surprises in the film. The Host, in the end, is more about the characters and their relationships, rather than about a monster terrorizing Korea. As long as you don’t go in expecting a typical horror fest (mentioning it in the same breath as Jaws does nothing but confuse the viewer—don’t listen to the cover art’s quotes), this Recommended film will entertain you from start to finish.
Boy, they certainly didn’t skimp at all on the DVD extras for this two-disc release! Although it comes without an insert and a standard cardboard slipcover, the menus and special features are a real treat to view. The disc art for disc one is the same as the single disc release’s cover (and I’m sure they’re the same discs, as the first disc isn’t labeled “Disc 1”), so even if you don’t purchase the two disc release, you’ll still get a fair amount of extras.
Included on the first disc is over twenty-seven minutes worth of deleted scenes, which range mostly from removed monster action to scientist discussion and excised news clips that weren’t used in the film. There’s plenty to see in the deleted scenes and on top of the scenes we have a “Director Bong Joon-Ho's Reflections” featurette which essentially amounts to Joon-Ho apologizing to the extras that were cut from the film, spliced in with footage of the shooting of the removed scenes.
The real meat of the first disc features is, of course, the feature length commentary with Joon-Ho and a friend of his who not only manages to keep Joon-Ho on track with the film, but also spur some discussion that leads to some awesome revelations about the film’s production and his idea for the film in general. A very enlightening track to say the least, this is a must-listen for anyone who enjoyed or is a fan of The Host.
Moving onto disc two we get a healthy dose of featurettes that delve into every possible aspect of the film. It’s near overkill (on the level of Ultimate Matrix Collection special feature overkill), but the extras are nicely divided and cut up so you can watch them in short bursts.
“Making of The Host” covers the production of the film and ranges from simple storyboards to actual locations and what the shooting was like. In addition, the music for the film is discussed here along with the special and sound effects, as well as the cast and crews thoughts on filming in the sewer. There is a ton of information to be found in these segments alone, but we’ve only just touched the surface of what else is on the disc.
“The Creature” shows how the creature was made and goes into excessive detail, but those who have watched other special features on creatures or CGI in general will know what to expect. As amazing as CGI work is and continues to evolve, looking at tons of wireframe models, then rough, then semi-final, then final, then final composited in film…it starts to get old after the fifth or sixth DVD you’ve watched it on. Those interested in this field of work will no doubt eat it up, but I’m just tired of watching special features like this on every DVD.
A nice behind-the-scenes look at those behind-the-scenes is given with “The Crew” segments, which includes the staff, production crew and the visual effects supervisor while filming in Korea. Its obvious Joon-Ho wants to thank all of those who worked on the film (as evidenced by the first disc special feature) and these extras are no different. These featurettes are fun to watch as it’s always nice to see those who worked hard on the film get recognition.
The final set of extras we get is one of my favorites: “The Cast.” I always love hearing what the cast has to say about films, whether it’s the actual production of it or just their thoughts on the story in general. It likely has to do with the fact that while watching the film I bond to the characters they portray so hearing their thought process while creating the character attitudes and the like is more interesting to me than the technical aspect of things. Casting tapes, training, the many extras as well as interviews with the main and supporting cast are included in this bundle of featurettes.
A gag reel a “Saying Goodbye” featurette round out the final extras on the disc, aside from some trailers on the first and second discs of the set. Gag reels are always a treat to watch and the “Goodbye” featurette is a quick bit of the cast and crew recalling their experience on the set and how much they loved working with each other.
There’s no doubt that this DVD is packed to the brim with extras and the film deserves every bit of extras it gets. It was a lot of fun to watch, even if it wasn’t what I was expecting, and the DVD extras just enriches the film experience even more. With over four hours of extras in all, there’s plenty that will keep you busy to watch after the initial viewing of the film.
Of course, one aspect of the DVD that we haven’t talked about yet is the film quality itself. Thankfully the disc doesn’t show any signs of bad DVD transfers, in either the video or audio department. Indeed, the audio is a strong mix that provides ample surround support as well as thunderous woofer work whenever the creature is on screen (you quite literally feel the creature every time one of its legs hits the ground). For the video we get a pristine transfer that doesn’t show any signs of compression and the color levels remains steady throughout, even if there is a bit of grain thrown in at times.
If the Korean Audio 5.1 mix isn’t to your liking (I highly recommend watching it in this though, as the English mix, like most dubs, simply ruins the mood of the film, as nothing can match up like the original actors), there is a 5.1 English mix as well as a 2.0 Korean. English and Spanish subtitles are thrown in as well.
Overall, The Host is a fun ride. As stated before, don’t expect Jaws as that isn’t what you’re getting (and as a general rule of thumb, don’t listen to AICN reviews as they’re often largely overblown with quotes perfect for putting on boxes). Instead expect a film that’s akin to a summer blockbuster with a bit of heart—because, if for nothing else, you’ll remember the family and the characters more so than the monster. This DVD comes Highly Recommended.
The Host arrives in single and two disc DVD editions, as well as Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, on July 24th.