Host, The (DVD)

The Host 2-Disc Collector's Edition (click for larger image)Reviewed by Syxx

Starring Kang-Ho Song, Hie-bong Byeon, Hae-il Park, Du-na Bae and Ah-sung Ko

Directed by Bong Joon-Ho

Distributed by Magnolia Home Entertainment

We here in America may not be getting a huge box set like our friends in Korea, but Magnolia Entertainment wasn’t going let The Host attack the US with a bare bones DVD release. No, no, no. Magnolia did not just release one version of this film but four: a single disc, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray and what we’ll be looking at today … the Two-Disc Collector’s Edition.

The tale of the Han River terror is an amazing work of CGI artistry and social commentary. Many critics have compared it to Jaws, but that undermines the film somewhat. While Spielberg’s aquatic menace movie was an amazing thriller, The Host is an entirely different creature that is even more in tune with social politics and character evolution. However, this review will not be focused on the film itself as we already have Andrew’s great in-depth review of The Host here. Instead we’ll look at the mountain of special features contained in this bountiful haul. Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host has been receiving praise from critics all over the world, and the high marks are well deserved. Does this two-disc set make it an even more fulfilling experience? Absolutely!

The goodness of The Host does not end on Disc One when the credits roll as it contains a commentary, deleted scenes and a look back at the finished product with Mr. Joon-Ho.

Fans who were worried about Bong’s commentary being subtitled can have those fears laid to rest. In the commentary track he does speak English. Quite well in fact. Bong’s long-time buddy Tony Rains is also on board to help shed further light on The Host. Tony mostly controls the audio track, but Bong has plenty to say, informing us about various things such as the Mcfarland case that inspired the opening scene of the movie (more on that in a bit).

The Host 2-Disc Collector's Edition (click for larger image)Everything from the suicide rate at the Han River bridge to justifying the use of creature feature cliches (even though The Host is far better than many of those movies out there that also use them) is discussed, and Bong also delves deeper into his political views with regard to both his government and ours.

As expected, this commentary track is full of information. The addition of Bong’s friend was a wise move as he keeps the conversation moving and topics fresh. The moments of silence are kept to a very strict minimum, and this is an excellent start to this massive Collector’s Edition

Now for the stuff that didn’t make it into the movie — the deleted scenes! The first two feature some suspenseful build-up that tricks the audience into thinking the mutant is about to attack. Both star a couple being distracted by something off-camera, and it turns out to be just ordinary stuff like a wedding or soccer match being won. These scenes are followed up with many other reels that appear to be cut for time purposes or are just simply alternate takes. Most are uninteresting until about the 20-minute mark when the bits including the monster are shown. Though there’s nothing memorable about them that comes to mind, those who cannot get enough of the beast will be pleased to see an extension of its on-screen time.

Reflections is more like a video commentary for certain large scenes that were omitted from the final version of The Host. This special feature is mainly Bong’s way of apologizing to those who worked hard on these cut sequences. It may sound odd, but this speaks loads about what kind of director he is. The fact that he created a video to acknowledge the sorrow he felt that some of his crew’s hard work would be going to waste is worth noting as a trait many directors lack.

Among other deleted clips is a section dedicated to the newscasts that are spread throughout the flick. These are by no means special and only exist to give the audience a further look at some things that we only got a quick glance at. There is not much to learn from these extended documents, but if you were wondering what was happening on the televisions in the background, your questions will be answered.

That wraps up Disc One. Now, let us jump into the huge amount of extras that await on Disc Two!

The Making-of The Host is the first featurette listed and is broken out into eight segments targeting the subjects of filmmaking, special effects, storyboards and set design. The Making-of The Host allows director Bong Joon-Ho to tell us about how the idea behind the creature and the setting came about. It turns out a much younger Bong always wondered what it would be like if a Loch Ness type creature were to come to the Han River, and later that idea was combined with the Mcfarland chemical dumping incident. While a bit on the talky side, this featurette still packs an interesting punch.

The Host 2-Disc Collector's Edition (click for larger image)The pace picks up when we reach the storyboards that focus on the action oriented parts of the movie. The art style of the panels is enjoyable by itself, but to see how closely the filmmakers were able to follow these preliminary designs to finish the The Host is amazing. During the early stages of production it is easy to come up with all the perfect angles and such, but to actually pull them off and make exactly what you wanted should be commended. On another note: If someone were to take the time, these storyboards could be pasted together to create a comic book adaption of the movie. They are that good looking. Wishful thinking, eh!?!

Bong Joon-Ho’s Direction is exactly what you would think: a look at how Bong directs. This video is actually more funny than it is informative. Joon-Ho is a entertaining man to watch as he directs very serious material in an upbeat and jolly manner. He is pretty dedicated too, even hurting himself just to demonstrate how he wants an actor to jump into the back of a truck. He likes to fart(!) too. Moving on …

Speaking of noxious smells, Memories of the Sewer takes us into what it was like to film in a real sewer. As you may have guessed, it was nasty, smelly and all around unpleasant. That didn’t stop the team though. They pressed on through vaccinations, rats, and a deadly amount of pollution just to make the highest grossing Korean film of all time. That is fucking dedication! You’ll gain a new respect for this project after seeing what these people put up with just to follow Bong’s dream. They even drank dirty sewer water just for our viewing pleasure! YAY!

The set design featurette is a little weak in entertainment value, but computer geeks and designers will take away something from the tools used to produce even the smallest and most trivial of props/set pieces. Not too much to see here.

Physical effects were almost as important as the mutant star of this movie. Not everything the creature touched could be done in CGI so things like trucks being crushed, people being picked up, and so on had to be achieved using real world tactics before the monster could be added. For example, large drums were dropped into the water to simulate the effect of the beast diving in. A huge blue phallic looking device was created to replicate the monster’s mouth as he regurgitated his victims. And most important of all, the Agent Yellow dust was really made out of ground up snacks! Delicious, but deadly.

The sound effects and music featurettes are the weakest in the Making-of line. Mainly we are shown video of actors speaking into their mics to make the sound of the beast screaming, grunting or breathing. It isn’t particularly fun, but it is slightly made up for when the orchestra is brought on and shown performing the offbeat score to the film. Music lovers should easily be able to appreciate this last feature in the tree, but many may prefer just to skip it in light of other “cooler” stuff.

The Host 2-Disc Collector's Edition (click for larger image)The most important featurette has to be the one surrounding the creature’s design, movement and implementation into the real world. Designing the Creature is very detailed. This is the real bread and butter of the disc and obviously was the area most worked on. WETA really did create a lifelike beastie that rarely ever feels out of place in the real world. Special effects fanatics have everything they could want here. The detail of all stages involved with bringing the star of the show to life is amazing. Nothing feels cheated or forced as the audience is given a look at not only the exterior of the model but even the bones and muscles that lay underneath. Job well done.

The cast and crew features are a bit dull but have their entertaining moments. By the time one reaches these interviews and casting videos, so much time has been spent looking at a badass mutant created by WETA that everything else lacks that shine. There’s not a whole lot to say about these except there’s a lot of them. You can pretty much skip this one too.

The gag reel is just plain funny. The monster does a backstroke through the Han River, runs on a treadmill, and various CGI models do some dancing and flying. This featurette also gives us some more behind-the-scenes footage of how the creature would interact with real world objects during early stages on the computer. Everything wraps up with the cast flubbing their lines while recording a welcome video. It’s short and sweet.

Saying Goodbye is the perfect wrap-up for this second disc. Many of the people involved would gladly go back into the dank-nasty to make The Host again if asked. This is also one of those occasions in which the filmmakers really deserve the back-patting they are giving themselves. The Host is unlike any creature feature we’ve seen in years. It is more focused than King Kong and could leave a bigger impression on movie lovers than Jaws.

The put it simply, The Host: Two-Disc Collector’s Edition is the thing to buy if you are serious about enjoying an original and refreshing bit of horror cinema. Come for the monster, but stay for the touching story of a family that will go through great lengths just to save their loved ones.

Special Features
• Deleted scenes
• Reflections with director Bong Joon-Ho
• Commentary with director Bong Joon-Ho
The Making-of The Host featurette
• Storyboards
Memories of the Sewer featurette
• Set Design, Special and Sound Effects featurettes
Designing the Creature featurette
• Puppet Animatronix featurette
Animating the Creature featurette
The Crew: Production & Visual Effects featurette
• Casting tapes
• Cast interviews
• Actor training
• Gag reel
• Cast and crew goodbyes


5 out of 5

Special Features:

5 out of 5

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Mike Phalin

Mike Phalin is a contributing writer, reality television star and engineer.

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