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).
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 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 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.
• Deleted scenes
• Reflections with director Bong Joon-Ho
• Commentary with director Bong Joon-Ho
• The Making-of The Host featurette
• 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
5 out of 5
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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On
Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston
Directed by Johnny Martin
When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.
Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.
Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.
Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility
Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita
Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita
The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.
The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.
The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.
From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.
The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.
Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.”
The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.
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