By Kate Anderson-Song
Welcome to Kate’s Review Corner! I’m Kate Anderson-Song, the head interviewer and an editorial team member here at Overachiever Magazine. As a performer, writer, artist, and recent university graduate with a degree in Cinema Studies & Drama, I LOVE a good movie or television show. And I spend A LOT of time watching things!
So, this film & television review column has been in the works for a while, but we decided to roll it out now to bring you a little extra content for all your self-isolated/quarantined days! Get ready for a whole bunch of reviews and thoughts about the stories I’m consuming right now, And feel free to send me any suggestions you may have – I’m always looking for something new to watch, especially things featuring Asian perspectives (message us on Instagram or Twitter @overachievermagazine, email us, or just comment here)!
Review Corner: The Host (2006, dir. Bong Joon-Ho)
In this period of staying home in self-isolation, I’ve noticed people seem to fall between two teams when looking for a movie to watch:
- They either want to find some escape and entertainment away from all of this. Think Hallmark movies and re-watching Parks and Rec obsessively (which I am definitely doing).
- Or, they want something that speaks to the crisis now. Think those who are watching films like Contagion or Outbreak.
If you fall into this latter category (or the first one, honestly you should still give it a chance!), I want to suggest a slightly more unusual option: Bong Joon Ho’s (yes, the Academy-Award winning director who made HISTORY with his most recent film Parasite. THAT Bong Joon Ho) 2006 big-budget monster movie, The Host.
Although you might be wondering, why, if it’s a monster movie, does it relate to now?
The film itself begins with the monster’s genesis: an American scientist ordering his Korean employee to dump tons of chemicals into the Han river. Cut to the legitimately scary mutated amphibian – a swinging, swimming, huge squid-like creation that gallops after people, lashing out with reckless abandon.
But, the monster’s rampage is not the only danger. Allegedly, everyone who has been exposed to the monster has also been exposed to a novel virus. This sends Korea (and the world) into a panic – think the Korean military quarantining the whole area, the WHO and CDC making statements, and this very funny (and a little too relatable) coughing scene (Click here!).
Also, although the film is mostly in Korean, these moments of pandemic also allow a bit of English language into the script, spoken by the American doctors and military (who all seem to be a biiitttt shady), plus the many news briefings.
So, this show has an aspect of epidemic that we can all relate to now, if that’s what you are in the mood for! But past the virus and the high suspense action of the monster, the film’s heart lies with the a somewhat oafish, sometimes ridiculous, but ultimately loyal and resilient Park family fighting to save their youngest: the 16-year-old Hyung-seo, who’s been taken by the monster. The grandfather and his three children take matters into their own hands when no one will listen to them: breaking out of the quarantine and hiding from the authorities while searching the sewers, ready to fight the monster and save Hyun-seo.
This film will surprise you with its stunning visuals (some shots feel straight out of a Wes Anderson film with their symmetry, use of color, and detailed set-ups – though maybe not quite as stylized) and the ease it moves between high tension, heartbreaking action, and blunt comedy – all while fulfilling what you expect from a big budget monster movie.
So, if you do want to lean into “pandemic,” but maybe not as “on the nose” as Contagion or Outbreak, try the Host.
It’s a little bit terrifying, a little bit heartbreaking, and a little bit ridiculous – which, coincidentally, are all things I’ve been feeling in this crazy time we are all living through.
Kate Anderson-Song is on the editorial team at Overachiever Magazine. She is a NYC-based writer, artist, and performer, with a background in Cinema Studies & Drama from New York University. You can find Kate on Instagram @k8andersonsong and @thek8pages where she posts her art, and you can find more of her work (and tons of other great stuff) here at Overachiever Magazine!