“The Host” begins in the year 2000, in South Korea. A pathologist (Scott Wilson) instructs his assistant (Brian Rhee) to dump bottles of formaldehyde into the Han River. The assistant protests, but the doctor is insistent. Initially it looked as if there were just a few bottles, but as the camera scans the length of the room, the viewer is shown that there are hundreds of bottles.
In 2002, some fishermen, out for an afternoon of drinking beer and fishing, spot a small, strange looking creature. The creature doesn’t bother the men and soon swims away. The film advances four years from that moment. The creature, voiced by Dal-Su Oh, has grown considerably because of the chemicals that polluted the water in the river. The monster, which uses its tail as a weapon has the ability to leave the water. When it runs on dry land, it takes big lumbering strides.
In addition to the creature, the film centers on a family of five. Park Gang-Doo (Kang-ho Song) is lazy. He frequently falls asleep while he’s working. The reason he hasn’t been fired is that he works at his father Park Hie-bong’s (Hee-Bong Byun) snack stand on the banks of the Han river. The father tolerates his son’s laziness for the sake of his granddaughter, Park Hyun-seo (Ko Asung). The other two members of the family are Park-Gang Doo’s siblings. Park Nam-Joo (Doona Bae), is his sister. She is an Olympic Bronze medal winner for archery. His brother is Park Nam-il (Hae-il Park) who drinks heavily, because since graduating from college, he can’t find a decent job.
One day Park Hyun-Seo is visiting her father and grandfather. On that day, the creature is spotted hanging upside down off of the bottom of a bridge by a large group of people who are by the river. The creature, at first, acts harmless, and seems to enjoy the attention it’s getting from people who are throwing it food. The creature soon tires of what it is being thrown and leaps from the water. Once on land it begins attacking the crowd, the large majority of whom scream and run away. Park Gang-Doo, spots Park Hyun-seo in the crowd attempting to get away from the creature. Fearing for her safety he runs after her. Thinking he has Park Hyun-seo by the hand, he keeps running, only to discover to his horror that he is holding someone else’s child’s hand. As he looks up, he sees that the creature has taken his daughter.
The family is devastated over the death of Park Hyun-seo. After attending a funeral to mourn not only her loss, but all of the people who the creature killed, the family is taken into quarantine. Anyone who had contact with the creature is being kept under quarantine watch, because the official position is that the creature carries a deadly virus.
While the family is in quarantine, they find out that Park- Hyun-seo is alive. She is trapped in a place in the sewers where the creature rests and disposes of the bodies of those it has killed. Her cell phone is still working and she is able to call her father. Park Gang-Doo, as well as the rest of the family are overjoyed. When Park Gang-Doo tries to tell the proper authorities that she is alive, no one believes him. They think his grief is making him imagine things that aren’t real. The family decides to take matters into their own hands. They will first have to get past doctors, nurses, armed guards and government workers on the take, before they can even begin to do battle with the creature.
“The Host” premiered on May 21, 2006 at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was directed by three time Oscar winner Bong Joon Ho (Parasite), who co-wrote the screenplay with Won-jun Ha (Stray Dogs) and Chul-hyun Baek (The Pororo). Parts action, drama, horror and Sci-Fi, the film has a runtime of 120 minutes. The movie is subtitled. As of the writing of this post, the film is the highest grossing movie in the history of South Korea. In January of 2015, a 10 meter high, 5 ton sculpture of the creature from the movie was erected on the bank of the Han River in Yeouido Han River Park.
I was interested to see this film after having recently watched Boon Joon Ho’s outstanding film “Parasite.” The cinematography by Hyung Koo Kim (Memories of Murder) and the music by Byung-woo Lee (Dear Arabella) helped to elevate the tension in the scenes that were transpiring on screen. Overall, this was a well executed film. I would highly recommend this one to those of you who enjoy foreign horror movies.