the host | bong joon ho | won-jun ha | chul-hyun baek | kong-ho song | kaiju | giant monster | hee-bong byun | hae-il park | action | drama | sci-fi | south korea | scott wilson | bae doona | ko asung | dal-su oh | jae-eung lee | dong-ho lee | military | government
Film: The Host (Gwoemul)
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Writer: Boon Joon Ho, Won-jun Ha and Chul-hyun Baek
Starring: Kang-ho Song, Hee-Bong Byun and Hae-il Park
This was a movie that I actually avoided for some time. The poster didn’t really catch my attention. I thought it was going to be a cheesy monster movie. It was being promoted in the Fangoria Top 300 Horror Movies issue and I heard some people when I got into listening to podcasts praising this. This is another one I finally watched thanks to the Podcast Under the Stairs’ Summer Challenge Series for the 2000s. The synopsis is a monster emerges from Seoul’s Han River and begins attacking people. One victim’s loving family does what it can to rescue her from its clutches.
We start this movie off in 2000. There is a US doctor in the morgue in South Korea, portrayed by Scott Wilson. He tells a Korean doctor that is working with him about dumping the chemicals that are old and dusty down the drain. The Korean doctor tries to change him mind, since the drain empties into the Han River. He is told to do it any way. We then see a couple of fishermen that find an odd looking creature. They wonder if it is a mutation. It gets away from them though. The movie then takes us to present day. We have a man who is standing at the edge of a bridge and people are trying to talk him down. He says he sees something moving in the water.
The movie then switches over to Park Gang-Doo (Kang-ho Song). We see a kid trying to take something while he’s sleeping on the job. His father runs this food stand, Hie-bong (Hee-Bong Byun). He wants his son to do better, but he allows him to be a screw up. Gang has a daughter of Hyun-seo (Ko Asung). She comes home from school and watches television with her father. She is upset that his brother, Nam-il (Hae-il Park) showed up for parents’ day and that he probably was drinking. The two of them settle in to watch Gang’s sister and Hyun’s aunt compete in archery Nam-Joo (Doona Bae) on television.
Gang is told by his father to fix an error he made by eating part of a customer’s order. When he goes down by the river, everyone is looking at something hanging from the bridge. It turns out to be alive and attacks. Gang tries to get back to his daughter and get her safety, but he loses her in the commotion. His heart sinks when he sees the creature take her away. He gives chase to avail.
Nam-il and Nam-Joo show up to where everyone is evacuated too. Nam-il is mad at Gang for being a mess up. Things take a turn when the United States government steps in to help. The Park family is taken when it is revealed that some of the blood from the monster got on Gang’s face. There is a US soldier that was attacked and infected with a virus from it. Gang also gets a call from Hyun. She’s still alive in the sewer. He does what he can to get away and save her before it is too late. Is this virus the government is talking about real and what about this monster still roaming the area?
That is where I’m going to leave my recap and I have to say, even though I liked what this movie was doing, I’m glad that I waited to see it. What is interesting is the social commentary here and if you know me, that are some things that really stuck with me. To start there, this opening scene is based on a real event where a US soldier told his subordinate to dump chemicals down the drain which emptied into the river. This is really something I’m not shocked by, but it does annoy me as someone who is concerned with the state of the planet.
It is such an easy premise that leads us into a large monster movie. I guess you could throw this into the kaiju sub-genre here, even though it isn’t that big of a monster. I was also wondering what type of creature this is as it appears to have scales like a fish, but it also has legs. I like that it is first encountered by the fishermen and then a few years later, we get the creature in the movie.
Since I’ve moved into talking about the monster, I do have to say that the CGI for it is hit or miss. I knew that was really the drawback most people brought up there so it makes sense. Having now seen it, I think there are some times that it really worked for me where I didn’t have any issues with it and other times it didn’t hold up. The practical effects we get though are good and I mean, the cinematography is also well done while I’m on the subject.
To get back to the story, there’s this interesting talk of a virus being spread from this creature as well. This movie I feel would make those that COVID-19 isn’t real would look at this movie as an example of art siding with them. We have doctors and nurses in the movie that aren’t wearing their masks, even though there is the threat there. There is something though that gets revealed and that it feels like the government is playing this up to control its civilians. This is where I mean when I brought up that idea about not believing. What I take from this is that the government tends to do corrupt things at times to keep their civilians in line. It is quite scary to be honest and this movie really seems to be talking out against practices of the US. I can’t argue against them either.
The last aspect of the story to go over is the Park family. Hie-bong has a nice little family here that he should be proud of. Nam-Joo is an Olympic athlete for archery. Now we see her indecisive nature got in the way, but she is still competing. It really is only Gang who is a screw up and has no ambition. This event though makes him grow up and we see there is actually potential there. Nam-il is able to make a living, but he has his problems too. Together, they really have to figure themselves out to save Hyun who is the innocent one of the bunch.
While talking about the characters, might as well go into the acting as well which I thought was good across the board. I love the way Song plays the character of Gang. He really feels like him and is such a screw up. The growth he goes through fits for what you need for your hero. Byun is really good as well as the father of this family trying to keep everyone together. Park is solid and I love how mean he can be. Bae is a good counterbalance to Nam-il. Asung was pretty cute as the kid here. She has to grow up a bit fast as her father isn’t great. The rest of the cast I would say rounded this movie out for what was needed as well.
Now that’s all I really wanted to delve into with this movie. I thought it has some really good social commentary about taking care of our environment and the dangers of what governments can do in a crisis. The acting really brings these characters to life and I think they’re all distinct enough for me. I like the look of the creature and although not all of the CGI holds up for me, it definitely is good enough overall. The soundtrack didn’t really standout to me, but it fit for what was needed. Overall I’d say that I really enjoyed seeing this movie, especially during a pandemic. I’d rate it as a good movie for sure with just some slight issues here and there.
My Rating: 8 out of 10