Horror Double Feature: The Host and District 9
Two Entertaining Movies with a Message
Why are these two horror/science fiction films perfect for a double feature movie night? Many U.S. audiences have yet to see these entertaining International films.
Let’s just get right to the comparisons:
The Host and District 9 are movies from different countries by different directors. They were made in 2006 and 2009 respectively. The stories, of course, are different. One has a monster that terrorizes the citizens of a South Korean city. The other has outer space aliens that accidentally land in modern South Africa and become an oppressed minority.The aliens exist under human rule that eerily looks like another oppressive regime from our recent past.
What is similar?
- They both balance horror, gore and humor equally well to create a fun ride.
- Social commentary is an inherent aspect of each film
- The effects are surprisingly well done. Similar to computer enhancements in movies like Super 8 and Jurassic Park.
- The two main characters are very imperfect, sincere men thrust into the position of being heroes.
- Their monsters and aliens are cool.
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'Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!' - Lewis Carroll
The Host Trailer
The Host Trailer (in Korean)
Shocking, jarring and totally riveting. Heartrending and at times humorous. Not only do critics love this movie, but audiences cannot take their eyes away from the unfolding action of The Host. Director Bong Joon-ho expertly weaves his tale of a family’s trial to recover a relative snatched by a unforeseen force that appears out of the blue.
I love this movie. Since I’m a person that loves both well done horror flicks as well as campy, cheesy ones; I was expecting to enjoy this movie no matter what. To my surprise, it met and then surpassed my expectations.
The Host is a wonderful balance of horror, drama, action and humor. My family and I were captivated by this (yes I have to say it) sublime thriller. The characters are realistic, showing both human strengths and weaknesses. The scene where we see the creature for the first time is comparable to the scene in the 2005 movie version of the War of the Worlds when the alien space crafts start exploding into the scene in front of the unsuspecting citizens of Boston. Heart pumping: you feel what the people feel as they flee from their mundane ordinary activities to escape this deadly force.
I agree with some reviewers that the subtitled version is better. I personally like hearing the real voices of the actors. Dubbed versions tend to get a little clunky during the characters’ conversations.
The special effects are great. I would definitely say Hollywood quality similar to the creatures in the movie Alien. The effects and computer animation carried the weight of the screenplay in that they make you feel the creature is breathing down your neck.
You’ll find there is a thread in the storyline about how humans are polluting their environment, causing disruptions in nature. BIG disruptions.
Finally, there are layers of social commentary concerning Korean society that an American audience may miss. Not only do we see the ‘government experts’ including the American military making mistake after mistake, we see an average family thrown into a situation where they are forced to become heroes or perish as a family unit.
I’ve decided. The best monster slash science fiction movies have an undercurrent of social commentary. More often than not, the creatures we see are actually a side of ourselves that is hard to acknowledge. Or, our confused reactions to the creatures in these movies show our struggles to act humanely as a civilization. The interaction we have with these creatures is very close to how we interact with each other. Take, for example, the prawn-like aliens in this documentary-style film entitled District 9.
I need you to keep in mind the living conditions for black Africans during apartheid in South Africa.
The story takes place in South Africa after apartheid. Imagine an alien ship with sickly aliens seeking refuge near Johannesburg. What happens? First we are compassionate and try to help them set up housing and become assimilated into human society. Eventually resentment over the aliens increases. Some humans (both black and white) want them totally kept apart from us. Some humans start finding ways to exploit them. The refugee area called District 9 turns into an immense slum. The living conditions are poor. A government agency steps in to ‘buy out’ the land and bulldoze over the shanties. The aliens would then be transferred to camps far away from the city. Sound familiar?
During this time period, a well intentioned official named Wikus tries to implement this action humanely but is in way over his head in controlling the crew under him. Eventually he gets accidentally implanted with alien DNA and starts turning into a ‘prawn’ himself.
Without telling too much of the story, we get to see a relationship develop between Wikus and one of the alien leaders.
But the reason District 9 is so good is that it is not preachy. The action and effects are compelling. The creatures are – to quote any 8 year old kid “really super cool!”
The parallels we see in this story to our real past are striking. Things like apartheid and Nazi persecution are exemplified in this parody in a visually striking way. This is a strangely humorous but compassionate portrayal of humans struggling to BE human.