Friday, February 01, 2008


This week’s movie:


Ode to the monster movie:

I just saw an outstanding monster movie the other day called Cloverfield. It wasn’t like Frankenstein or Godzilla or any of the others I can remember from my childhood, and it will very likely change the nature of monster movies to come - a new benchmark - and when it comes out on video in a few months, I’ll have more to say about it then. But in the meantime, it reminded me of another great monster film I’d seen recently - this week’s movie, THE HOST.

I was really young when I saw my first “monster attacks the city” movie. It was Godzilla and I was about 8 years old. It was simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. And even though the logic side of my brain told me that it was just make-believe, I would still, for years since, always keep check on the horizon when I was outdoors – because you never know when a prehistoric creature in a rubber suit, created by atomic radiation, might decide to rampage through my town and my parents would probably have to buy a new car and thus wouldn’t be able to afford a new bicycle for yours truly – then I’d be stuck running beside my friends, trying like hell to keep up, thus getting so tired that I’d fall asleep early and thus wouldn’t be able to stay up late enough to watch the monster movies, shown on TV late at night. …………….could happen.

I can’t say for sure why some of us are drawn to such movies. Maybe we have that sort of morbid curiosity that is fascinated by large scale destruction. Maybe we identify with the creature – “I want to knock down big buildings!” Maybe it’s the same compulsion that made you want to knock down your little brother’s tower of building blocks as you walk by – just because.

Years ago I watched a movie on TV (It may have been a “made for TV” movie) called Monstroid. During the opening credits they flashed the claim “Based on actual events.” You might think, “So what? Lots of films are based on true stories.” True enough – but this one was about a giant dinosaur that rises from the sea and terrorizes a coastal fishing village. Funny that I never read about that in the paper ………oh wait – maybe I did read about that once in the Weekly World News between the article about how Satan is a space alien and the latest exploits of the Bat Boy. Lately though, I’ve been disappointed with monster movies. For me, Godzilla was the biggest and baddest of them all. The second-rate copies that came after just didn’t cut it – like Mothra, and Gamera, and King Kong (please ignore, for the moment, that fact that King Kong was actually made some 20 years or so before Godzilla – I’m trying to make a point here.), but I watched them and loved them just the same. The problem is that I’ve grown up and they hadn’t. I hadn’t, until now found a film that was as thrilling and scary ……….and fun as the early classics to a young boy ……….as I said, until now. THE HOST is such a film. It has the right combination of scary monster, thrilling action, political satire, stress releasing comedy, mayhem, and uplifting heroics as they did when I was a boy. Finally, the monster movie has grown up.

This film has often been described as “Godzilla vs. Little Miss Sunshine”. This is true to an extent. It’s not as much about the monster as it is about the Park family. Three generations of the Park family live together in a trailer on the banks of the Han River in Seoul, South Korea (yes – it’s Korean – but the subtitles are easy to read and if you don’t want to read those, my copy of the DVD had an English-dubbed soundtrack – but gobs are lost in the translation – I recommend you brave through the subtitles ………….unless you’re Korean that is). They are a profoundly dysfunctional family but manage to pull together and support one another when the chips are down. In that way, it is similar to Little Miss Sunshine. The monster isn’t humongous, like Godzilla. It can’t knock down buildings and terrorize entire populations at the same time – but it is rather creepy nevertheless, and it can certainly terrorize a few dozen people at the same time at any rate.

THE HOST is funny without being a comedy. It’s scary without being gross and turning your stomach. It’s dramatic without being soppy. It’s a political satire without preaching, and it’s action packed without seeming unrealistic (except that there’s this monster). I’m hoping that this will spur a renewal of interest in making monster movies. I think it may already have started (reference again to the new film “Cloverfield”). I know that if I ever get the chance to make a film, I have lots of monster ideas – but I know that will never happen. So … are my monster movie ideas that will probably never see the light of day.

  1. VORAX: Destroyer of Worlds! – Vorax, the most fearsome creature in the Andromeda Galaxy, travels throughout the galaxy destroying and devouring planets. When he is sucked through a wormhole and reappears in our own solar system, he sets his sights on the Earth. Our doom seems certain, causing panic worldwide – until it is discovered that, due to a miscalculation in scale, Vorax is actually half an inch tall.
  2. TERROR FROM THE DEEP – In the future, the ocean is pristine. A century of human efforts have paid off and the ocean is once again clean. A monstrous sea creature, fed up with humans cleaning up his domain, rises up and attacks New York. He lumbers down street after street cleaning up the litter and the trash and the garbage, leaving sparkly clean streets in its wake – and bellowing “How do you like it? How do you like it?!!!!” Street cleaners and garbage collectors are suddenly out of work, tipping the already teetering unemployment scales into instability. The economy crashes sending the country into a deep depression. Mayhem, destruction, oh the terror, oh the terror…………from the deep.
  3. SLUMMO: The Rude Clown!!! – A giant clown-like creature attacks the city making rude gestures and dropping its pants-like garment. Citizens are disgusted and evacuate the city in droves, but SLUMMO has his giant squirting flower-like object waiting for them.
  4. PLANETRON: The Careful – Planetron, a giant prehistoric sea serpent, rises up to attack Tokyo – but he doesn’t do it all at once. The 300 ft. tall creature first does a walk-through, taking copious notes and occasionally taking out a huge tape measure to check building heights and widths etc. He’ll use this data to plan his attack at a later time so that he’ll know which buildings he is able to knock down for maximum terrifying effect.
  5. The Return of PLANETRON – PLANETRON attacks Tokyo with maximum terrifying effect.
  6. KLAXON: The Annoying – Klaxon, a giant space alien, is not very powerful, so it can’t really cause any actual damage itself, and it can’t really harm anyone ……directly – BUT – it’s really really loud and annoying. So much so that eventually the city sustains damage and mayhem as the military knocks down buildings in an effort to chase Klaxon away. Thousands are killed in the stampede to “get the hell out of Dodge”, much of it due to lack of communication as most people have their ears stuffed with cotton, or stones, or small animals – basically anything they can manage to shove in there just to shut Klaxon the hell up.
  7. THE BEING OF UNKNOWN HORRORS - An earthquake opens a fissure releasing a giant creature. The populace is horrified but it doesn’t know why.
  8. THE NO-NONSENSE BEAST – A humongous monster attacks an unsuspecting city. It stomps cars, knocks down buildings, gobbles up people by the boatload. It withstands every weapon the army and scientists throw at it. That’s it! The no-nonsense beast. What’s the hook, you ask? An all-orangutan cast.
  9. THE MONSTER WHO WAS AFRAID OF OTHER MONSTERS – A large horrible creature, named TELEPHONOPHOBIA, rises from the deep. It attacks only small towns and suburbs. Why? It heard that loads of monsters were attacking the big cities like New York, Tokyo, London – and he owes most of them money. Thus he eschews the obvious target cities and turns up in places like Schenectady, Newport News, and Peoria – the “big monster in a little pond” philosophy.
  10. THE MONSTER WHO DIDN’T SHOW UP – A 500 ft prehistoric sea serpent completely fails to rise from the sea, doesn’t bother to knock down buildings, totally neglects to terrorize innocent citizens, and generally blows off the chance to rampage through Manhattan – much to the chagrin of city officials who ordered the city to be evacuated and the military to be on hand for just such an occasion – and are now looking pretty foolish – and have sent their aides to look for “a Godzilla costume and a camcorder – and step on it if you don’t mind”. Oh the horror …….the horror.

THE HOST scores a 94% on the tomatometer.

Play host to THE HOST this week and


view trailer


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