“If I pour them in the drain, they’ll run into the Han River”
The Host is a Korean monster movie from 2006, two years before the over-hyped & frankly god-awful Cloverfield & is far superior in every way. Directed by Bong Joon-ho, The Host manages to be part monster movie, part comedy, part emotional family drama & completely brilliant as a whole. There is so much going on in The Host that in the hands of a lesser director it would have been a mess. As it is Bong Joon-ho balances the moods of the movie perfectly. As much as The Host is a thrill ride monster movie, it is also a movie about the human condition & most importantly family.
The movie begins with an American scientist ordering his Korean subordinate to empty over 200 bottles of formaldehyde down the drain (& consequently straight into The Han River) Over the next few years there are several reports of strange fish in The Han River. On the riverbank Park Gang-du works with his father Hee-bong in a snack bar. Also with them are his sister Nam-joo, a silver medal archer, his brother Nam-il & his daughter Hyun-seo. The seemingly dim-witted Park Gang-du is delivering food at the river’s edge when he, along with a small crowd witness a large creature drop from The Wonhyo Bridge into the river. After initially disappearing under the water when the crowd start to throw food at it, it re-emerges on the riverbank & causes a panic. The creature runs through the park snatching up & devouring at least one unfortunate soul before it snatches Hyun-seo & dives back in the river. The government arrive & place the area under quarantine, claiming that the creature is also host to a deadly virus. Whilst in quarantine, Park Gang-du gets a call from Hyun-seo, who is alive but trapped in a sewer. The call is cut short as Hyun-seo’s mobile runs out of battery charge. So Park Gang-du & the rest of the family escape & head back to the river to rescue Hyun-seo.
A truly wonderful film, The Host is everything the likes of Godzilla (The American one) & Cloverfield should have been. The Host itself is a great & unique looking creature. Looking like a fish/tadpole chimera it manages to look organic & is able to appear right at the beginning of the movie in broad daylight, which in the monster movie genre is quite rare. The scene of chaos by the riverbank as the creature runs amok is stunning. Bong Joon-ho really captures the ensuing panic brilliantly. Once the first frantic fifteen minutes of the film is over Bong Joon-ho brings the human element to the story. The family’s journey throughout the movie, is at times funny & at others incredibly poignant. The entire cast is perfect, with extra praise going to the two child actors in the movie who truly convey a real sense of terror.
The crime here is that movies like The Host get very limited theatrical releases yet appalling movies like Cloverfield get nationwide releases & huge advertising budgets. It may seem like I’m picking on Cloverfield, that’s because I am. Cloverfield is in the same genre of movie as The Host & was made at a similar time. yet that is where the similarity ends. Cloverfield has no plot, bad acting, horrible shaky cam & a truly awful creature that doesn’t look at all real. Coupled with the ridiculous plot flaws (did it tiptoe up to the survivors in Central Park?) It stinks as a movie. Do yourself a favour, if you haven’t seen it, go rent The Host. A wonderful piece of cinema.