The Host (2006) — A monster movie from that Parasite guy

“You are dimwits, right to the end. I’ll see you in hell.”

ZombieDog’s rating: Grab your best movie watching partner, shut off the lights, turn off the phones and enjoy.

ZombieDog’s review: The love of cult movies is in no small way the love of film. Just like a special song that we have which moves our soul, there are diamonds in the rough movies which speak to us in the same way. I see cult films as having a large social component. What’s the point of discovering something wonderful if you can’t share it? This is a lifestyle, and it does require participation if you want to grow, share, and encourage further development of this style of filmmaking.

One of the things I would suggest for anybody getting interested in film, let alone starting to seek out cult films, is to be open to sources that you never thought you would before. Foreign films are one of the greatest resources for new and exciting cinema. Everybody knows Godzilla (Japan), But have you seen any films from Russia, Brazil, or even Australia? There’s always something wonderful to be found if you are willing to search.

The country that has been knocking out of the park for the last 15 years is, in my opinion, Korea. They have been producing wonderfully creative, unique, and powerful films. One of the men who has had the largest impact on the Korean film industry, has been without a doubt, Bong Joon Ho of recent Parasite (2019) fame. Early on in his career, he directed a straight-up monster movie called The Host.

It’s not a monster that’s going to destroy the world or the universe, but it grabs your attention, nonetheless. There’s absolutely no question that the film could be compared to Tremors (1990) in the sense that it’s a monster threatening a small town, but that’s about where the similarities would end. The Host has a completely different tone and a monster that is even more threatening.

The main characters are an average working-class family. While they may be lower class, their station in life doesn’t define them. Their lives are dedicated to one another. They own a small convenience store like kiosk at the river’s edge. We see early on that no member of this family is successful in any way; they are not secret geniuses, ex-special forces, or prepared in any way to fight this creature.

One of the best aspects of The Host is that it takes the monster movie tropes and completely turns them on their head. We see the monster in the first five minutes, the creature’s origins are ignorance not super technology, and the monster ultimately shows society’s faults — not its strengths. This cultural self-reflectiveness is one of Bong Joon Ho’s greatest abilities as a director-writer. While Parasite showed his willingness to hold a mirror to society, Snowpiercer is the perfect midway point between these two films.

Class conflict, chaos at every turn, and the indisputable truth that somewhere along the line we have made a critical error. With The Host, there is no bigger mistake than creating a dangerous monster through hubris and what could only be called criminal negligence.

The monster design is in and of itself quite organic and elegant. It is a river creature suited perfectly for living along the banks of a river and the labyrinth of underground sewers which dot the terrain around Han River near Seoul, South Korea. The monster is not a misunderstood character — it is absolutely a dangerous creature. However, there are times when it appears intelligent, almost kind, while never abandoning that threatening aura.

This is also a significant downside of the film as well. It’s 2006 CGI… which is not great. They do manage to compensate with some practical effects, feeling its weight and quick shots where we don’t get to see the CGI errors, but they are still there. It is forgivable though.

The true beauty here is that Bong Joon Ho has created a movie that examines Korean society, warts and all. That is his skill as a director. He’s giving you a message, but at the same time giving you permission to ignore that message and simply have fun. If you have seen Parasite and not The Host, this is a rare opportunity to examine an Oscar-quality director early on in his career developing the skills he would later use to peel back the illusions we build our lives around.

Keep in mind if this is your first Korean film then you do need to know one thing: In a lot of ways, Korean films are considerably more brutal than their American counterparts. Characters often endure great hardship and graphic brutality. This can be emotionally distressing, but at the same time it adds to the experience of the film. If you rarely or never watch foreign films, then let me suggest this one (and there is a dubbed version if you are subtitle averse).

Ultimately this is without a doubt a true-to-form monster movie that will keep you plastered in your seat until the very end.

Quick recommendations for other Korean films:

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