The Host

The Host is the highest-grossing movie in Korea. Ever. And after watching it, one can conclude that it is a weirdly compelling, genre-bending movie that mixes in horror, dark comedy, social commentary, and a little bit of pretty much everything else out there. There really is nothing like it in recent memory, and it works on many levels. On its most basic level, The Host is a classic monster movie. A beast is created that terrorizes citizens. The government cannot stop it, so it is up to the Park family, desperately trying to find their youngest member.

The Host is a product of modern times, and its social commentary is what will make it memorable. Director Bong Joon-Ho (Memories of Murder, Barking Dogs Never Bite) intentionally brings up allusions to SARS and other recent natural disasters where the government reaction has been less then exemplary. Here, the Korean government reacts quickly, but then falls victim to red tape. There is also an anti-American streak running through the film. The prologue shows that the arrogance of a particular American was responsible for the creation of this monster, and the CDC and American Army take point in the inevitable conspiracy as events spiral out of control.

Stuck in the middle of all of this is Park Gang-Du (Song Kang-Ho, Lady Vengeance, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), a lazy, slovenly guy that works in his father's food stand. Gang-Du is like a teenager in the body of an adult. Somehow, he managed to have a daughter, Hyun-Seo (Ko Ah-Sung), and ends up doing things like giving her beer. Their father Park Hie-Bong (Byeon Hie-Bong, Crying Fist, Memories of Murder) is constantly annoyed at Gang-Du's laziness. The other members of the family are college educated Nam-Il (Park Hae-Il, Rules of Dating, Memories of Murder) and Olympic archer Nam-Joo (Bae Du-Na, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Linda Linda Linda). And with bows and arrows and monsters, it's inevitable that they somehow mix later in the film.

Writers Bong, Baek Chul-Hyun, and Ha Won-Jun (Spygirl) keep things moving at a relentless pace. Within minutes after the prologue, the relative serenity of the Park food stand is shattered with the appearance of the rampaging creature. It takes Hyun-Seo, and she is presumed dead until Gang-Du receives a call from her, asking for help. Gang-Du's pleas to the government come to no avail. Officials believe that the creature is carrying some sort of virus, and that Gang-Du is delirious and sick. Thus, the Parks, take matters into their own hands and race to save Hyun-Seo. The writers structure The Host in such a way that every character matters, and does something for the plot. This isn't like the typical American slasher, where there are a bunch of interchangeable, expendable teenagers. This movie is something original and different, and even better, it works.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 59 minutes, Korean with English subtitles, Rated R for creature violence and language.

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