Halloween Countdown: The Host

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(In anticipation of the coolest day of the year, this month-long series will offer one recommended horror flick a day up through Oct. 31.)

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THE HOST (2006). Just as the original 1954 Japanese cut of Godzilla warned against the evils of nuclear proliferation, this Korean import (a blockbuster in its homeland) similarly rails against a host of societal ills, including humankind's disregard for nature, the ability of America to force its will on the rest of the globe, the false front provided by governments declaring bogus "terror alerts," and media insensitivity. Yet these themes only simmer in the background, and even the creature feature often takes back seat to a sturdy and even touching comedy-drama about the importance of familial fortitude. The central character is Gang-du (Song Kang-ho), a dimwitted food-stand vendor and unlikely father to bright young Hyun-seo (Ko A-sung). When an enormous mutant emerges from the Han River, munches on a few humans and then takes Hyun-seo back to his lair, it's up to Gang-du and other family members to rescue the girl, battling military personnel every step of the way. Full of memorable imagery (amusing sight gags easily commingle with more brutal shots) and anchored by the human story at its center, The Host is only harmed by the varying quality of its special effects. Still, given that the movie works best when focusing on the people rather than the predator, that amounts to a minor quibble: This is a monster movie for those who like a little meat on the genre's bones.

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