The Host

the host

The Host (괴물)
Made in: South Korea
Language: Korean
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Starring: Song Kang-Ho, Ko Ah-Seong, Byeon Hie-Bong, Du Na-Bae, Park Hae-il
Year: 2006

Synopsis: In bustling Seoul, Korea, a giant, mutated sea monster (that looks like a large, furious mud-skipper) leaps out of the Han River and begins terrorizing a group of unsuspecting picnic-goers. Snatching many of its human victims live, the monster (or "gwoemul") deposits them in its underground lair to be eaten later.

While on its rampage, the monster grabs Hyun-Seo (Ko Ah-Seong), a bright, spunky 13-year old girl, and takes her back to its home in the sewer. Hyun-Seo's grandfather Hie-Bong (Byeon Hie-Bong) and bumbling father Gang-Du (Song Kang-Ho), who both run a food stand near the river, fear that the girl is dead.

But a frantic, crackling cell phone call from Hyun-Seo to her father proves otherwise.

Gang-Du is later joined by his sister Nam-Joo (Du Na-Bae), a nationally ranked archer, and his drunk, angry brother Nam-il (Park Hae-il). The three siblings and their father resolve to find Hyun-Seo and kill the monster, but first they'll have to get past police, military, and biohazard teams who have cordoned off the river.

Using all their skills and resources, the family soon find that the authorities and political entities opposing them will be just as hard to deal with as the monster itself, who is reported to be the host of a nasty virus.

Remarks: The Host turns out to be much more than the run-of-the mill horror movies that have come out recently. A grim tale, it's an effective although scathing commentary on mankind's reliance and arrogant use of technology, as well as humanity's insistence on discovering some truths while covering up others.

Director Boon Joon Ho also inserts some political overtones regarding the presence of the US military. Although the overall tone of this film is often cynical, I must say that Boon does a good job getting his point across without becoming pretentious or preachy.

It won't be long before you figure out that this isn't going to be a cheesy splatter-fest with tons of shooting and explosions, mainly because of the strength of the acting and emphasis on the human characters. But to be fair, this movie will teach you how to turn an ordinary street sign into a deadly weapon!

This is mostly a story about the importance of keeping our families together in an age when so many external forces, such as the lure of corporate success or the occasional giant mud-skipper, threaten to tear us apart.

While running at almost two hours, The Host is a bit slow at times, but compelling nonetheless.

The special effects aren't perfect, but are very good overall and carefully executed. Gore is virtually absent, as Boon Joon Ho opts for psychological scares instead. There's a measure of humor as well, which keeps the movie from taking itself too seriously.

Who would like this movie: This movie's for you if you have an interest in Asia, and international movies in general. The Host is certainly entertaining and intense in parts, but don't add it to your collection of B Movies since it's much more sophisticated and cerebral than you might expect.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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