We don't have to wait long to get a full reveal either: it's a huge, mouthy sea monster, complete with dexterous tentacles and the ability to gallop across land, perform graceful backflips, and swallow whatever unlucky human being gets the hell in its way. Naturally, the local population freaks — especially a sad-sack father (Song Kang-ho, who also played a sad-sack father in Park Chanwook's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) who watches helplessly when his young daughter gets lassoed by the critter. The Host follows his oft-ridiculous plans to rescue her with the help of his brother (an educated drunk) and sister (a competitive archer who tends to choke when it counts). The film also chronicles the Korean government's strong-arm approach to handling the "river incident" — with the help of the US Army, which would just as soon incite even more panic by claiming the monster is the source of a terrible and mysterious new virus. Bonus: The Host boasts killer special effects by San Francisco's the Orphanage (Sin City, Superman Returns) and New Zealand's Weta Workshop (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong). With cutting political and social commentary gurgling just below the surface and black humor spurting from every orifice, The Host (due for a Magnolia Pictures release in 2007) is a must-see for monster movie fans — and jeez, everybody else too. If straight-ahead action's more your thing, keep an eye out for Johnnie To's Exiled (Bay Area release date unknown). Touted in some circles as the sequel to The Mission, this may be the prolific To's best gangster movie to date. The smashingly hangdog Anthony Wong anchors a cast of familiar Hong Kong faces (Simon Yam, Francis Ng, Nick Cheung); the plot, about hired guns and gangsters who do the double cross like nobody's business, matters less than the jaw-dropping gun battles it produces. When shoot-outs come this well choreographed, the word is gun-fu — and in Exiled, the bloody results are nothing short of stunning. Also topping my Toronto experience so far: Takashi Miike's latest oddity, surreal prison drama Big Bang Love: Juvenile A (by the time you read this, he’ll probably already have his next film in the can); The Wayward Cloud director Tsai Ming-liang's dreamy, gritty, and near-silent I Don't Want to Sleep Alone; and Nobody Knows helmer Hirokazu Kore-eda's samurai yarn, Hana. (Cheryl Eddy) For longer takes on these and other TIFF selections, read daily festival updates on the Pixel Vision blog at www.sfbg.com.