PicturePresented in 1.85:1 1080p format encoded with VC1, The Host is a very good quality presentation. This is exactly the same offering as the recent US HD-DVD version. A comparison between the two discs with certain scenes indicate the same bit-rate and visually there's absolutely nothing to distinguish the two.
The white balance is perhaps over done in some external daylight shots, sometimes seeming over blown. At the other end of the spectrum however dark scenes are beautifully detailed, exposing every facet of the characters faces and expressions. A lot of the action takes place in shadowy areas; sewers, night, under bridges and all of these come across with structure and depth. The individual bones spewed up by the mutant in its lair a fine example. Bright scenes are richly detailed, clinically sterile whilst shot in hospital, superb sharpness the outdoor scenes of the panic and the demonstration near the end of the film.
Colours are rich and the palette range wide indeed, look again at the panic scene and the demo; both show an incredible amount of detail on the characters faces and clothes. Those very same over exposed outside scenes mentioned earlier are complimented with a wealth of colour from the park and the people meandering around it, all perfectly rendered with no bleeding. Noise and edge enhancement do not get a look in here. It's no real surprise that this BluRay edition of The Host is no different to is HD-DVD counterpart.
SoundBesides the Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary track The Host presents the viewer with six soundtrack options. A Korean PCM 5.1, Korean DTS-HD 5.1, Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as equivalent English dubs in the same format at the same bit-rate. Again I'm choosing the original language and the PCM track to listen to.
Complimenting the direction wonderfully the audio contributes to drawing the viewer into the movie itself. As the mutant rampages around the Han River banks appropriate sounds emanate from all of the speakers creating a truly engaging surround field. You believe you are in the middle of the chaos. Other areas of full surround use include rain, helicopter use and various vehicles. Speech is well defined from the centre but as it's Korean for most that won't be an issue either way. I usually watch foreign films in the original dialogue with sub-titles as I cannot abide dodgy speech synchronisation.
Although the video may not be any different, the audio is a different kettle of mutant. The DTS-HD tracks on offer on HD are included here also but encoded at a much higher bit-rate and this really shows. There's more depth, more definition and more thump to the track as a whole, in both the Korean and English versions. That's just the DTS-HD track though, kick in the PCM and it's a whole new world. This is by far the best way to listen to The Host and in comparison the others feel sadly lacking. Fine detail comes across better with individual voices now heard in the background which were never apparent in the HD-DVD or BluRay DTS-HD version, there's extra depth to the track as a whole, better steerage between all speakers and the LFE will speak for itself when the mutant decides to go wandering for lunch.
ExtrasLike the main feature itself the extras contained on this disc are a carbon copy of the US HD-DVD version, minus some additional HD-DVD trailers. So, again, I am pleased ot offer up my original thoughts on these worthy additions.
- Directors Commentary.
A full commentary with director Joon-Ho Bong and friend, Tony Rayns. It is fantastic to see, and hear, this in English as most other Korean films I have had the good fortune to watch have been in the director's native language. Anyway Joon-Ho details the process behind the initial concept of the film, the people who would ultimately help with the production of The Host, film locations and past associations with actors. He also discusses some of the Korean traditions shown in the film and what usually happens in real life; mass funerals and grieving for instance. Tony Rayns assists in the commentary by providing Joon-Ho with some English to help him along and to perhaps steer the direction of the commentary a certain way if he feels one topic has been discussed sufficiently. He also peruses Joon-Ho on the subject of American nature; if some of their actions past and present contributed in some way to sub-plots contained with this film. The commentary never bores and was certainly quite helpful to some scenes that initially might seem a little strange. Certainly recommended.
- The Making of The Host.
A montage of short documentaries each focusing on specific items of The Host's production. Initially we have Joon-Ho discussing the film and all too often he justifies his decisions based on the fact that to do it any other way would have incurred additional costs. You get the feeling from this that the Korean film industry still being in it's infancy forced Joon-Ho to look elsewhere for certain production values, specifically CGI. The shots of the sewer are discussed in detail with production members and crew. One of my favourite lines from this is "In Hollywood they would have created a sewer set, but here in Korea we do it for real". It shows what both cast and crew had to go through to film in the sewers, their inoculations, their fears and how they stopped people from being electrocuted from all of the electrical equipment which had to function down there. Two particular important scenes from the film are shown here as storyboards. Lastly in this section we are shown some of the non CGI effects, some of the physical processes which went into merging the CGI mutant into the film so well. This documentary is well worth a watch.
- Creature Documentaries.
Again a series of 4 shorts which encompass most of the processes used to bring The Host to life and on screen. Animatronics, puppet work and CGI are all discussed here. It was intriguing to see CGI being constructed by the American company The Orphanage, Joon-Ho viewing the 'rushes' in Korea and iteratively refining the CGI work to show the directors intent. Interesting from a technical point of view.
- Family Cast Interviews and Training.
A very short introduction to the members of the Park family. We also get to see the training the actors went through in the use of pump action shotguns and specialised archery equipment. Quite amusing at times.
- Gag Reel and Deleted Scenes.
The usual assortment of outtakes and scenes that never made it into the final take. Like most other deleted scenes you can argue that some of them should have been kept in. Certainly a couple of the mutant CGI shots were interesting but it's difficult to see how they could have enhanced The Host.
International trailer for The Host itself.
A fine set of extras that are both entertaining and informative. The director's commentary is always worth a listen and this is now the second time I have had the pleasure. It was still entertaining and unlike my recent Oldboy commentary reviews, comes in English so it's a little easier on the brain. A fine way to watch this commentary is to have the English subs on the main feature at the same time, they dovetail with each other quite nicely. The additional material on second viewing was a little repetative but for those coming to them for the first time certainly worthy of a watch.
VerdictSo I watched The Host again, and I enjoyed it as much this time as I did first time around, perhaps even more so. The humour in the film gets me every time and I love seeing the family stumble from one catastrophe of their own making to the next.
If someone was to ask which version I would buy then I would have to say, without a pause, the BluRay edition. The video is exactly the same as HD-DVD, the extras are the identical; however the sound on this release is head and shoulders over it's HD-DVD equivalent. I can honestly say I've never before heard such a marked difference in the same soundtrack across different formats.
Yep, I'm yet again recommending The Host for your viewing pleasure, it sets out perhaps to be horror but it's so much more than that. A fantastic storyline which never once will have you looking at your watch, but really it's the characters themselves; their plight and their failings which make this movie what it is. Still highly enjoyable.
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- Directors Commentary.