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The Host Limited Edition (Region 3)
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Box Front Korean Title: Gwoemul (“Creature”)
Director: Bong Joon-ho (Memories Of Murder)
Original Release Year: 2006
Running Time: 120 minutes
Official Websites: http://www.hostmovie.com/

DVD Released By: KD Media (South Korea)
Video: Anamorphic widescreen
Audio: Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, Korean DTS ES
Extras: Audio commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, image galleries, trailers, soundtrack CD, script booklet, storyboard booklet
Subtitles: English, Korean
Closed Captions: Korean
Region: 3
Format: NTSC
Chapters: 23
Packaging: 4-disc digipak, and two booklets, in a sturdy cardboard box with a thick, translucent plastic slipcover
MSRP: Approx. 75,000 won
UPC #: 8809090262587
Catalog #: KDVD261
Status: Available (limited to 10,000 sets)


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Reviewed by:
Zillamon51
The Film: In the year 2000, morgue workers at a U.S. Army base in South Korea dump toxic chemicals into the Han River, which runs right through the heart of the capitol city, Seoul.  The horrific ramifications of this act will not be known until 2006….

Park Hee-bong, patriarch of the Park family, owns a food stand along the Han River.  Assisting him in running the business (at least when he’s not sleeping) is his adult son, Gang-du.  One day, shortly after Gang-du’s daughter Hyun-seo arrives after school, a crowd of onlookers spots something strange hanging from the Han River Bridge.  The dark form drops into the water and makes its way towards shore.  Emerging from the water is a grotesque mutant creature.  It’s the size of a city bus, and very fast.  The vicious monster goes on a feeding frenzy, rushing through the panicked crowds, grabbing and swallowing victim after victim.  As the horrified Park men watch helplessly, the creature makes Hyun-seo its final victim, snatching her up with its tail before diving back into the river.

The shocked witnesses are evacuated to City Hall, where a memorial display is set up.  There, Gang-du is joined by his younger siblings:  His sister Nam-joo, a competitive archer, and his brother Nam-il, an unemployed, heavy-drinking college grad.  Their tearful reunion is short-lived, however.  Everyone present is ushered away into medical quarantine.  Gang-du, who was splattered with mutant blood, is singled out for extensive (i.e. gruesome and painful) testing.  It seems the creature is the host (hence the title) of a deadly unknown virus.  Late that night, Gang-du is shocked when he receives a phone call from Hyun-seo!  His daughter is still alive in the creature’s sewer lair.  When their pleas for help are dismissed, the Park family has to escape the hospital and take matters into their own hands.  However, standing between them and Hyun-seo are corrupt bureaucrats, a paranoid public, a concrete labyrinth, and a deadly monster.

Over the years, Korea’s monster movie output has been sporadic and the overall quality wanting.  That makes it all the more surprising that
The Host is one of the best films in the genre.  The reason is, it’s more than just a clichéd thriller or popcorn action movie.  At its core is a dysfunctional family that must come together in the face of adversity to rescue one of their own.  The tribulations they face are not strictly of the mutant variety; the film has a palpable sense of mistrust towards government and authority.  The chemical-dumping incident that opens the film is based on a true event.  Not only is the overbearing presence of the U.S. responsible for the creature’s birth, but America also strong-arms its way into deploying a deadly biological weapon against it.  The virus scare is reminiscent of overblown concerns about SARS and “bird flu.”  From national governments all the way down to the cop who refuses to do a simple check of cell-phone records, the institutions that are supposed to help people fail miserably.

Of course, even when the Park family sets out on their own, things don’t go swimmingly.  This motley group are not action heroes by any stretch, despite Nam-joo’s skill with a bow and Nam-il’s experience as a former student protester.  The audience comes to like and identify with these characters, but not all of them are going to survive.  This makes the film powerful and involving, and keeps it rooted in reality.  Far from being a downer, however, the film has a healthy dose of dark humor to lighten things up, but never at the expense of thrills or scares.

At the heart of the film is the adorable schoolgirl, Hyun-seo.  She is smart, resourceful, and mature beyond her years (no doubt because her single father is more like a doofus big brother).  She even becomes the guardian of a little boy who’s trapped with her in the creature’s lair.  As for the monster, it’s kind of like a mutant tadpole with multiple appendages, a multi-hinged jaw, and a long prehensile tail.  It can gallop swiftly after prey, and even defy gravity by swinging like a monkey under the bridge; but it’s also clumsy at times, tripping over its own webbed feet or belly-flopping onto a truck.  In best kaiju fashion, it’s a cunning monster with personality.  The CGI used to bring it to life is very good.  It makes its first appearance at about the 12-minute mark, and starts its rampage (in broad daylight none the less) soon thereafter.  It’s one of the most exciting and effective monster attacks ever filmed.  There are only a few fakey shots later on that are easily overlooked given the overall quality of the production.

Beautifully filmed, with involving characters, excellent performances, good special effects, political subtext to spare, a dark sense of humor, and a nifty new monster,
The Host is one of the best monster movies ever made.  It’s a quantum leap in quality over Korea’s previous kaiju entry Reptilian, and it puts most American giant-critter-on-the-loose pictures like The Relic to shame.  No wonder it became the biggest box-office draw in South Korean film history.  Grade:  A

Video: The Host is presented in anamorphic widescreen.  The image is clear and sharp.  Color reproduction is excellent.  It’s vivid like a region 1 transfer; more so than many Asian ones, which are commonly softer.  The opening scenes near the river, and the hospital interiors, are bright.  When the Park family pursues the creature, it’s gloomy and rainy outside.  These scenes, and the underground / sewer / storm drain settings, are moody and atmospheric without being too dark.  Detail is sometimes lost in the darkest areas of the image.  This contributes to the picture looking overall a little more digital than film-like, but it’s by no means bad, just…modern?  Grade:  A-

Audio: The two main audio options are Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, and Korean DTS ES.  The Dolby track sounds good.  All of the dialogue, music, and sound effects are well reproduced.  I don’t yet have a DTS system, so I can’t comment on that option.  The third audio option is a visually impaired track.  It includes a narrator describing the on-screen action (in Korean) for the benefit of sight-impaired viewers.  (Remember the Descriptive Video Service track on the original Terminator 2 DVD?)  Grade:  A

Extras / Menus: There is a host of extras to go through on this 4-disc set.  On disc 1 with the feature film there are 3 audio commentaries:  One with writer / director Bong Joon-ho and the 3 actors who portray the Park siblings, a solo track with the director, and one with 4 staff members.  All are in Korean with no subtitles.  Also accessible from the setup menu is “After Commentary,” 2 minutes of additional comments from the actors and director.

Pop in disc 2, and you have two options:  “Beginning” and “The Host.”  The “Beginning” section includes:  “Wake Up, Monster” (9 min.), a very general overview of pre-production; “Hyun-seo’s Family” (4 min.), the Park family actors comment on their characters; “Cartoon Creature” (8 min.), scenes presented as storyboards and animatics; “Training Hunters” (5 min.), the actors learning to shoot; “Practical Effects” (5 minutes), planning and filming live-action effects; “Treasure Hunting” (6 min.), conversations with the young actors who end up in the beast’s pantry; and “News Clip” (5 minutes / 6 chapters), extended versions of faux news reports used in the film.  There is a “Preproduction Still Gallery” divided into 3 sections.  One has 52 images of location scouting and prep, one has 27 images of the actors in costume tests, and the other has 37 images of architectural and design work.  There are also 2 Easter eggs:  1 minute of casting tapes for small roles, and 1 minute of comments from the “other” schoolgirl.

“The Host” includes:  “Designing Creature” (11 min.), several designers showing a wide variety of looks for the creature; “The Fellowship Of The WETA” (6 min.), sculpting the creature at
Weta Workshop (The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, King Kong ’05) in New Zealand; “Creature Animation” (21 min.), The Orphanage in San Francisco (Superman Returns, Pirates Of The Caribbean:  Dead Man’s Chest) brings the beast to life with CGI; “Creature Making Process” (16 min.), 5 creature scenes, each shown in 5 stages of completion (all individually selectable); “Creature Animatronics” (7 min.), making and filming the full-size animatronic monster head built by John Cox’s Creature Workshop (Pitch Black, the upcoming Rogue); “Creature’s Gag Reel” (4 min.), humorous animations; “Kevin’s Korean Life” (7 min.), VFX Supervisor Kevin Rafferty’s stay in Seoul; “Creature And Its Behavior” (14 min.), the director explains the actions and habits of the monster; and “Sound Effects” (9 min.), voicing the monster and creating sound FX.  Then, there is a “Creature Still Gallery” divided into 5 sections:  40 images of storyboards and illustrations, 8 minutes of creature designs narrated by the designer, 30 images of creature designs (many radically different than the one used), 31 images of the animatronic head, and 26 images of computer renderings.  There is another Easter egg as well, 2 minutes of comments from creature victims.

On to disc 3.  The first option is “Production Making Film.”  This includes:  “Memories Of Sewer” (10 min.), the cast and crew describe the hardships of filming in Seoul’s massive sewer system; “BONGTAIL” (3 min.), comments on the director’s style; “Actors’ Hard Work” (3 min.), the lead actors in action; “Supporting Actors” (5 min.), they comment on their roles; “Mise-en-scene Specialist” (9 min. / 5 chapters), making props and background items; “Behind Story Of Staffs” (5 min.), anonymous (voice-altered) crew complaints; “
The Host Guests” (2 min.), set visitors (including directors Tsui Hark and Park Chan-wook); “Behind Story Of Production Team” (9 min.), comments from the cast and staff; and “Staff On The Screen” (4 min.), pointing out staff cameos.  Then, there is a “Production Still Gallery,” consisting of 3 sections:  61 images of the cast, 51 images of the staff, and 44 images of sets and props.  There is also an Easter egg; 1 minute with the pretty lady who gets snatched by the creature while listening to music.

The next option from the main menu is “Deleted Scenes.”  These are divided into “Drama Part” (25 scenes, 20 min.) and “Creature Part” (11 scenes, 3 min.).  They can be selected individually or played en masse, with or without commentary.  Next up is “Bong’s Apology,” 5 minutes of the director apologizing to several groups of people for various things related to making the film.  “Original Soundtrack” is divided into 3 sections:  “Making Of OST” (6 min. on the film score), “Alternate OST” (2 versions of one of the film’s poignant closing moments, each with different music), and “Music Video.”  The video is 3 minutes, plays like a condensed version of the movie (sans creature action), and oddly enough the song doesn’t appear in either the film or on the CD.

“Promotion Scenes” includes 5 sections.  “Promotion Tour In Korea” is 7 minutes of Korean showings introduced by the cast and followed by audience reactions.  “Promotion Tour In Abroad” has footage from film festivals around the world (13 min. / 5 chapters), an international poster gallery (10 images), 5 international trailers and TV spots (6 min.), and a montage of international articles and magazine covers.  “England Critic Tony Rayns Interview” runs 4 minutes.  “Trailers” includes 5 Korean trailers (6 min).  “Poster Gallery” consists of 10 Korean posters.  There is also a 2-minute casting tape for an Easter egg.

Moving along on the main menu, “Saying Good-Bye To
The Host” is 5 minutes of the cast and staff reminiscing.  Next is Sink & Rise, a short film from director Bong Joon-ho.  It concerns a bet between a food stand owner and a customer over whether or not boiled eggs will float in the Han River.  According to Koreanfilm.org, the film was originally part of Twentidentity, a 20-part omnibus film made by alumni of the Korean Academy of Film Arts, on the occasion of the school's 20th anniversary.  Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, it runs 7 minutes (including an introduction by the director), and has optional English and Korean subtitles.  The last option is 6 minutes of DVD credits, with some brief comments on the DVD production.  Finally, there are 2 short animatics hidden as Easter eggs on the main menu.

All of the extras on discs 2 & 3 are in fullscreen, with film clips in non-anamorphic widescreen.  (The deleted scenes are anamorphic.)  Except for
Sink & Rise on disc 3, there are no English subtitles.  The menus on disc 1 are anamorphic, animated with music, and everything is labeled in both Korean and English, making navigation a snap.  The chapter select menu is cleverly set up like the Park family’s wanted poster.  The menus for discs 2 and 3 are fullscreen, and animated with music.  Disc 2 has a biological motif, while disc 3 is set up like a map.  All of the main featurettes / sections on both bonus DVDs are labeled in both Korean and English (chapters and subsections in Korean only).  The Easter eggs can all be found by simply playing with the direction arrows on the DVD player remote.

The fourth and final disc is a CD of the film’s original soundtrack.  The composer is Lee Byeong-woo (
A Tale Of Two Sisters).  It has 40 tracks, and clocks in at 63:20.  There is no track listing included.  This is an artful, symphonic score.  The music ranges from a suitably creepy opening, to some hectic, comedic-sounding numbers that may at first seem inappropriate for a monster movie.  The music works well in the film, though, and is also pleasant to listen to on its own.

Finally, there are 2 booklets included in this set.  One is an 80-page script, all in Korean (except for brief passages of English dialogue).  The other is over 200 pages of storyboards.  Most are hand-drawn; a few are CG.  The drawings are excellent!  The book shows almost the entire film, up through the final confrontation with the monster, but not the touching denouement.  What a set! 
Grade:  B+ (Make it an A+ if you understand Korean.)

Final Analysis: For the Korean market, this beautifully packaged and extremely in-depth set is certainly worthy of the most popular domestic film ever.  What about international kaiju fans?  The film comes with optional English subtitles.  There are a couple misspellings, but the grammar is good for an Asian disc.  However, the extensive extras aren’t subtitled.  Of course, language isn’t a barrier with the storyboard book and soundtrack.  So, the decision to purchase for English-speaking fans depends on whether you’ll settle for a more basic, less expensive edition of the film, or if you want to have the biggest, most complete Host package likely to be released anywhere.  Final Grade:  A

Note: KD Media has also released a 3-disc Special Edition of The Host.  The DVDs are identical to the first 3 discs of this Limited Edition.  They come packaged in a keepcase with a slipcover.  The SE does not include the soundtrack CD or the 2 booklets.
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Additional Images
(Click For Larger Images):
Digipak Front Digipak Back Script Book Front
Digipak Front Digipak Back Script Book Front
Storyboard Book Front Storyboard Sample
Storyboard Book Front Storyboard Book Page Sample
The Total Package!
The Total Package!
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