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Was the Korean movie “The Host” an Action-Comedy?

September 15th, 2007 . by Gerry-Bevers

In her review of the Korean movie, Dragon Wars, Cynthia Fuchs wrote the following:

Older teens looking for a better monster movie should check out the remarkable Korean action-comedy The Host.

I did not see the movie, The Host, but I did see the previews, and I did not get the impression that it was meant to be an “action-comedy.” Is it possible that Cynthia Fuch saw scenes in The Host that were so ridiculously silly that she assumed they were put in there intentionally to get a laugh?

Then there is also the review of Associated Press’ Christy Lemire, who also believed that The Host was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek horror movie, similar to Shaun of the Dead. Here is how she described it:

Reminiscent of another recent smart, sly horror movie, 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead,” “The Host” begins with a dry, frequently absurd comic sensibility, but steadily grows darker, more intense and truly thrilling.

Was the Korean director really striving for a “dry, frequently absurd comic sensibility” or was Korean drama simply mistaken for absurd comedy?

By the way, I have noticed that many Korean netizens are now making excuses for the terrible reviews of Dragon Wars by saying that it was meant to be a children’s movie and should not have been taken so seriously. Com’on! Was Dragon Wars really meant to be a children’s movie, or are Koreans just trying to savage what they can of the national pride that they had attached to the movie?


26 Responses to “Was the Korean movie “The Host” an Action-Comedy?”


  1. […] Original post by Gerry-Bevers […]

  2. comment number 2 by: kjeff

    Gerry,

    Was the Korean director really striving for a “dry, frequently absurd comic sensibility” or was Korean drama simply mistaken for absurd comedy?

    “The Host” was an (alphabetically) action-comedy-drama-horror-sci-fi-thriller, and depending on your persuasion, the order will differ. But, there was nothing unintentionally funny about some scenes, and there are quite a few. So NO, it was not “mistaken”. BTW, you haven’t seen “The Host”? Come on… I think one of the things you read a lot when reading reviews of Korean movies is how they often subvert the genre. “Memories of Murder” plays like a straight police-procedural-serial-killer-on-the-loose most of the time, but it really has a lot of hilarious scenes. “A Bittersweet Life” is a serious revenge-action-noir, but it probably has one of the funniest scene on film, when the gun dealer that Lee Byeong-Hyun tries to buy a gun from was showing him how to re-assemble the pistols while he’s, on the phone, checking Lee’s referral. Half-way through, he realizes that the said-referral was false, and it becomes a pistol-assembly race between them. I won’t even try to define “Save The Green Planet”, because part of watching it is trying to figure out what genre it is. Please watch more Korean movies…with Hollywood’s movies dominance throughout the world, one thing that I feel that crazy-nationalism can be allowed.
    Note: D-War is a pseudo-Korean movie. It doesn’t have a Korean cast…it doesn’t take place in Korea…and the story has no significant cultural connection to Korea, that if you don’t know that it was produced and directed by Mr. Shim, it’s so generic, it may pretty well have been a Hollywood movie. Calling it a Korean movie is almost like calling Ang-Lee’s “Emma” a Taiwanese movie. Gods, I’m angry…and embarrassed.

  3. comment number 3 by: Gerry-Bevers

    Kjeff,

    Korean Web sites describe “The Host” as “drama,” not “action-comedy.”

    I wonder if the “comedy” designation was added before or after the US showings of the movie?
    What scenes in the movie were intentionally created to be funny?

    Maybe American movie critics mistook the anti-American theme in the movie as some kind of absurd comedy, when the director probably meant that to be taken serious? Maybe, American movie critics mistook things like shooting arrows at the monster to be comedy, when, in fact, archery was taken very seriously in Korea at the time? I don’t know. I will just have to see the movie, myself, because, frankly, Jeff, I do not trust you to be honest.

  4. comment number 4 by: YManchun

    It’s a mixture of a lot of genres. It’s not a drama and it’s not scary. There is at least one unintentional funny scene.

    Describing it here will be a little dry. But they are meant to be funny.

    1. When the father offers her daughter a can of beer. The daughter refuses, but he kept insisting.

    2. When the doctors were in the process of lobotimizing the father while he was still conscious. The father kept screaming and begging the doctors to stop, but the doctors and nurses started talking about some bridge named after a monk while he is screaming.

    3. When the family is mourning the loss of their daughter. A bunch of photojournalists converged on their location and started taking lots of pictures while they are rolling around on the ground crying. Also, a satire on Korean journalism culture, so I think this humour would be lost on the american audience.

    4. The father is a retard, so he makes numerous minor funny scenes. So most of the comedy will be centered around him.

    5. When the grandfather was telling his grown kids not to criticize their retared brother (the father) too harshly and asks “Do you really think your brother is that stupid?” and his kids responded “yes”.

  5. comment number 5 by: bulgasari

    Gerry,

    The Host is certainly not just a drama – kjeff’s description is correct. It’s a mix of several genres, which is the director’s style. His other films, ‘Memories of Murder’ and ‘Barking Dogs Never Bite’, are all very good – and very funny. In fact, a funeral scene, which would be unintentionally funny due to all the weeping, is deliberately played for laughs by the director; there’s nothing unintentional about the humor. While weepy dramas still dominate the TV screens in Korea, they’ve had much less of a stranglehold on the big screen over the past ten years (mind you, despite the mix of genres that many Korean movies have these days, most movies – especially romantic comedies – tend to revert to weepy drama at the end). The films of Bong Joon-ho, Park Chan-wook, Kim Ji-woon, Kim Ki-duk and Im Sang-soo – to mention just a few – are all well made and avoid the histrionics often seen in typical Korean TV and film dramas.

  6. comment number 6 by: kjeff

    Gerry,

    …because, frankly, Jeff, I do not trust you to be honest.

    Hmmm…that was personal and uncalled, care to back it up.

    Korean Web sites describe “The Host” as “drama,” not “action-comedy.”

    This would be a lot easier, and I’m pretty sure, unnecessary, if you actually have watched the movie, or any of Director Bong’s movies, but I think different people will describe it different ways. It really depends. Well, my explaining it will be a ‘wash’ due to my “dishonest” nature, but here is Director Bong in an interview talking about genres,

    Scott: How hard is it to juggle multiple genres and have them gel into a cohesive whole?

    Bong Joon-ho: To mix all those elements is not exactly like a bartender making cocktails. I don’t say “I need 20% of this, 30% of that,” but I try to stay faithful to the story, and hopefully the elements come out naturally. Just like my previous film, Memories of Murder, is a story about a serial killer investigation, the humor or the satire just comes out naturally.

    As I was working on the screenplay and shooting The Host, I never thought I was “mixing up” those elements, but after the movie came out, people came to me and said “Oh, you mixed together all these different genres.” I think the secret regarding this film lies with our actors. Whether they’re doing the comedy, the tragedy, or the suspense, they do their best within the reality of the movie. They never overdo it.

    Then again, maybe he too was not honest. Check the interview date…

    Maybe American movie critics mistook the anti-American theme in the movie as some kind of absurd comedy, when the director probably meant that to be taken serious? Maybe, American movie critics mistook things like shooting arrows at the monster to be comedy, when, in fact, archery was taken very seriously in Korea at the time?

    Watch the movie for yourself… But really, don’t believe me, read some of the reviews here.
    These people watch movies for a living, and it’d hard imagine for them, 100+ of them, not to know “unintentional” comedy when they saw it, no? Let’s say, in comparison to someone who hasn’t seen the movie.

    I will just have to see the movie, myself…

    Pretty please…

  7. comment number 7 by: GarlicBreath

    I will just have to see the movie, myself, because, frankly, Jeff, I do not trust you to be honest.

    Thanks mr Bevers, again you are spot on. The more I have read from this character the more I have found him to be a pathetic liar. But by no means do I suggest that all he says is a lie, he just mixes truth and lies.
    .
    If you tell him it rains in Corea, he will ask what is your real motive to point that out (hinting at racism), then he will point out that it started raining in japan first and it rains more in japan. Along the way he will do what ever he can to talk about other things to change the subject. After the rain stops, he will claim it never rained in corea and it was only becasue of japan and anti-coreanism that people even thought it rained in corea.
    .
    On another note. The Host is shit. DO NOT WATCH THAT CRAPPY MOVIE.

  8. comment number 8 by: bulgasari

    On another note. The Host is shit. DO NOT WATCH THAT CRAPPY MOVIE.

    Have you seen The Host?

  9. comment number 9 by: alec931

    gorl,
    .
    “Thanks mr Bevers, again you are spot on.
    .
    It’s quite funny to see you kissing ass and trying to win the approval of “Mr. Bevers” and “Mr. Matt”……..what a pitiful display, and lame…. 🙁

  10. comment number 10 by: kingka1004

    you’ve got to be kidding right? normaly I consider this site to be junkfood for my mind, all fluff. nothing to be taken serious, and a good time waster at work. but seriously I had to comment on this….. have you even seen the host? any other films directed by the same director? or Korean films in general. this film (like many other films by this director) is hard to put in one genre. like someone mentioned earlier, its a mix of horror, action, drama AND comedy. and you’re reviewing a movie based on a friggin trailer?

    “I did not see the movie, The Host, but I did see the previews, and I did not get the impression that it was meant to be an “action-comedy.” Is it possible that Cynthia Fuch saw scenes in The Host that were so ridiculously silly that she assumed they were put in there intentionally to get a laugh?”

    or is it possible that you haven’t seen the film and you’re basically talking out of your ass right now? never judge a film by its trailer. they promoted the film / created the trailer to appear as a action/thriller/horror or whatever. its called marketing. it has the typical dry korean humor which you find in many many korean films which I thought made it more interesting. I’m not big on horror films. and korean horror films are only slightly better than american. which is sad.

  11. comment number 11 by: kingka1004

    and please…get off bevers nutsack. its embarassing.

  12. comment number 12 by: kjeff

    Gerry,
    If there’s any doubt that living in Korea, for whatever reasons, got to you…this post certainly clears that up. I don’t know if this is the right word for it, but “jaded” comes to mind. My advice, it’s probably time to move on.
    I took what you said about me seriously…obviously, you’re not GarlicBreath, so I really hope you can back that up.

  13. comment number 13 by: GarlicBreath

    If there’s any doubt that living in Korea, for whatever reasons, got to you…this post certainly clears that up. I don’t know if this is the right word for it, but “jaded” comes to mind. My advice, it’s probably time to move on.
    I took what you said about me seriously

    That is some wacky corean logic if I ever heard any. Mr Bevers questions your honesty, rightly so in my opinion, and you think he needs to “go home”. Wacky corean logic. Mr Bevers is spot on about you, and any reader can just read my comments which shine light on your “honesty”, or should I say dishonesty.
    .
    I do have a question, and this does relate to your honesty. Think of it as a test of your honesty. Why would corea “get to him” as you put it. My guess is that wannabe gyopos, like yourself, think of corea as heaven so I am curous to see your answer. (my guess is that you won’t answer this, and so much for your honesty)

  14. comment number 14 by: HanComplex

    I will just have to see the movie, myself, because, frankly, Jeff, I do not trust you to be honest.

    I can see where you’re coming from with that comment, Gerry.

    If you tell him it rains in Corea, he will ask what is your real motive to point that out (hinting at racism), then he will point out that it started raining in japan first and it rains more in japan. Along the way he will do what ever he can to talk about other things to change the subject. After the rain stops, he will claim it never rained in corea and it was only becasue of japan and anti-coreanism that people even thought it rained in corea.

    LOL That’s one funny analogy but a pretty accurate one. Question motivation, bring up peripheral subjects without addressing the main points, gradually try to drift away from the topic, and repeat process until the other person is frustrated. But long time posters here who have had arguments with him here already knew that. Wacky Korean logic is right.
    .
    Gerry, if you can find Bong Joon-Ho’s “Barking Dogs Never Bite” do give it a watch. It plays out as a canine black comedy but contains an acerbic social commentary (boshintang, academic corruption, etc.) Since you’re at a university setting you might find it relevant or at least interesting.

  15. comment number 15 by: General Tiger

    Gerry:
    Is the first part of this post a question? Just making sure before I make comments.

  16. comment number 16 by: Gerry-Bevers

    General Tiger,

    I identify my questions with question marks.

    Kjeff,

    You want me to “back up” a statement where I said I don’t trust you to give an honest opinion? How do you propose I do that? Do you want me to call myself as a witness and have myself swear under oath that I don’t trust you to give an honest opinion? Maybe, the question you wanted to ask was, “Why don’t you trust me, Gerry?”

    YManchun,

    Your examples sound like some funny scenes, but do they make the movie “absurd comedy,” in the vein of “Shaun of the Dead”? Do you think the director wanted the audience to take the American-made monster scenario seriously? Was the Korean girl firing arrows at the monster meant to be taken seriously or was it the Korean equivalent of Shaun and his buddy throwing old records at the zombies?

    I am not saying there were no funny scenes in “The Host”; I am just wondering if all the scenes the US movie critics thought were funny were meant to be that way by the director?

  17. comment number 17 by: GarlicBreath

    Kjeff,

    You want me to “back up” a statement where I said I don’t trust you to give an honest opinion? How do you propose I do that? Do you want me to call myself as a witness and have myself swear under oath that I don’t trust you to give an honest opinion? Maybe, the question you wanted to ask was, “Why don’t you trust me, Gerry?”

    KA-KAKAKAK-KAKA-KAKAKKAKA-KAKAKAK-KA-KA-KA-KA
    .
    I don’t trust him to give an honest opinion regarding anything to do with great corea. Its clear to me that he is incapable of thinking beyond his blood affinity. I wish I was wrong, but so far this has been proved again and again.

  18. comment number 18 by: kjeff

    Gerry,
    I’m sorry, but WTF? Is this the best you can do?

    Maybe, the question you wanted to ask was, “Why don’t you trust me, Gerry?”

    …which would fly if you’d said, “Kjeff, I don’t trust your judgment.”

    How do you propose I do that? Do you want me to call myself as a witness and have myself swear under oath that I don’t trust you to give an honest opinion?

    Again, wtf? An honest opinion? Is this some sort of the difference between sugar-coating vs lying s.o.b. backtracking? Let me remind you, this is what you wrote,

    I don’t know. I will just have to see the movie, myself, because, frankly, Jeff, I do not trust you to be honest.

    There’s nothing about “an honest opinion” there, which is better in “Honey, you can eat that whole cake,” sort of way. But, no…you made a comment about my nature, as a dis-honest person.

    You want me to “back up” a statement where I said I don’t trust you to give an honest opinion?

    Yeah, I deserve that. Give me specific instances where I have not been “honest,” i.e. lying.(and, you’re not a child, you know the difference between “to lie” and “to be wrong”) This is where you suppose to say, “Well, you wrote this, this and this before, while in fact, it was that, that, and that. And you couldn’t have been ignorant to ‘that’ fact, so you must be lying.” And please, there’s no way that you didn’t know that this was what I meant, come on…
    Gerry,
    I’m not one of your students…that comment above was…well, you know what you did.
    And,

    Was the Korean girl firing arrows at the monster meant to be taken seriously or was it the Korean equivalent of Shaun and his buddy throwing old records at the zombies?

    Watch the movie already. It’ll take three hours(includes going to your rental store) of your life, and prevent you from asking uninformed questions? “The Korean girl firing arrows” is part of the character development; she’s an olympic-caliber archer who needs a little Miller(ala Reggie) in her.

    I am not saying there were no funny scenes in “The Host”; I am just wondering if all the scenes the US movie critics thought were funny ?

    “All the scenes” and “were meant to be that way by the director”…why do I get the feeling that I’m responding to a typical Asian student(stereotyping, I know, lack of better expression) question? It’s a friggin movie…it’s a film…it’s art.

  19. comment number 19 by: kingka1004

    lol @ critiquing or even commenting on a film which you havent even watched. this thread proves you korean nationalists and jaded koreaphiles with argue over the dumbest sh*t to feel better about yourselves.

  20. comment number 20 by: General Tiger

    Gerry:

    I am not saying there were no funny scenes in “The Host”; I am just wondering if all the scenes the US movie critics thought were funny were meant to be that way by the director?

    1. I guess humor is different for people.
    2. Watching the movie for yourself would probably clear things up a bit.

  21. comment number 21 by: alec931

    kjeff,
    .
    no need to feel angry about Gerry’s personal attacks. I think this is all you need to know about Gerry’s bitterness:
    http://profiles.yahoo.com/gerrybevers
    “I am somewhat of a loner who dreams of not being alone.”
    .
    brings a tear to my eye sockets. 🙁

  22. comment number 22 by: alec931

    kjeff, again,
    .
    as for gorl’s sneak attacks: I really can’t say but I guess it has something to do with him being rejected by a korean girl on a play date….but this is the strangest case of jealousy I have ever seen.

  23. comment number 23 by: GarlicBreath

    kjeff, again,
    .
    as for gorl’s sneak attacks: I really can’t say but I guess it has something to do with him being rejected by a korean girl on a play date….but this is the strangest case of jealousy I have ever seen.

    I think you are projecting.
    .
    Your obsession on me is really creepy. I must have really gotten inside your head. Yes that does make me laugh, but you need to get on with your life. At a minimum, try and stay on topoic.
    .

    gorl’s

    Interesting “letter play”.

    The guy gets his kick from “childish”(come to think of it, an insult to most children) letters-play.

    What a double standard from such an honest guy. Whines about me, but is silent with others.

  24. comment number 24 by: kingka1004

    OMG…………are there really people here for are 45 years old? and still arguing about sh*t like this? garry why dont you just play the role of the creepy westerner and date one of your students. you won’t be so bitter.

    if I’m 45 and still on this site…………. god help me. would be interesting to come back to this site and see where I’m at in 20 years though.

  25. comment number 25 by: GarlicBreath

    I do have a question, and this does relate to your honesty. Think of it as a test of your honesty. Why would corea “get to him” as you put it. My guess is that wannabe gyopos, like yourself, think of corea as heaven so I am curous to see your answer. (my guess is that you won’t answer this, and so much for your honesty)

    like I said, so much for your honesty. I am neither dissapointed nor suprised.

  26. comment number 26 by: kingka1004

    corean pry yo~~~~~~~