Film Night: The Host

Oh hey, let’s see if I can actually finish one of these posts.

After lurking a bit on reddit, I found a thread about Korean films. The Host was mentioned, and I remembered seeing it as a teenager, so I wanted to check if I still liked it. Well?

The Host is a good film.

Actually, it’s a fucking amazing one. I like it way more now than I did way back when I saw it for the first time.

This Korean monster film is one I watched as a young lad, and just found again. It’s a spectacular blend of drama, thriller, horror, comedy and all other manners of genre.

After an opening scene where an American scientist brow-beats his Korean assistant into dumping dangerous chemicals which will end up in the Han River, we start by following our primary protagonist, Gang-du, and his family (his father and his daughter), during what seems like a normal day. That’s until a huge fish-monster barrels into view and starts wreaking havoc. The scenes are harrowing and feel very real in the way that people react during a catastrophe. Some are paralysed with fear, some run, some act, etc. Seeing as it’s a monster film, naturally people die in quite awful ways.

In the opening chaos, Gang-du’s daughter is grabbed by the beast and pulled underwater, presumed dead. However, she manages to call him, and so¬†Gang-du and his dysfunctional family get together to try to save his daughter.

The family is made up by a pretty odd mix of characters. Gang-du is quite the slow individual. He’s very lethargic and is seen as a failure by his siblings. Nam-il is the member of the family that managed to get through school. However, he’s ended up unemployed and is eager to be seen as a competent individual, especially by his family. Nam-Joo is the successful sibling, competing on a high level in archery. The father, Hie-bong is a soft old man who loves his children, especially Gang-du in an attempt to make up for his poor parenting in his younger days (such as being the cause for his son’s disabilities). Hyun-seo is Gang-du’s daughter, a headstrong little lady whose disappearance brings the family together again.

All members of the family are very good, but special mentions have got to go to Kang-ho Song (who is absolutely brilliant as the dim Gang-du, giving him so much life on the screen and playing the different aspects of his personality so well) and Hee-Bong Byun (playing the patriarch of the family, who has a heart-wrenching monologue and shows the warmth and solidity of a father who’s the balancing force of the family). The film itself is a lot more focused on the bonds between the family members than it is about the monster, so they had to be likeable and well-acted both, and the cast pulls this off. They all have their pros and cons, which culminates in a spectacular final sequence.

Credit has to go to writer-director Bong Joon Ho, who expertly flows several different genres together, often in the same scene, as he does in the film as a whole. You can go from crying to smiling at the awkward comedy to cowering in terror withing short time-spans, as the film shifts gears very quickly.

Worth mentioning is that the film has a very strong anti-authoritarian vibe. People in charge in the film are often dipshits and treat our lovable fools like garbage. There’s a very devious scene where Gang-du is played like a fiddle by a foreign person, that quickly turns very dark. Speaking of foreign, while there’s an American that is a swell bloke in the film, most of it’s English speakers are portrayed as nigh-on moustache-twirling pieces of shit. Not that I mind, but it’s clearly a theme.

Finally, some words on the monster, seeing as it’s a monster film of sorts. The humongous fish-monster is terrifying as hell when up close. The CGI is a bit wonky at times and feels like frames are left out. It’s especially ugly in the distance, but it generally animates well up close. The monster doesn’t have much in the way of motivation, and that’s just fine.

All in all, I highly recommend this terrific film for just about anyone. It ticks most boxes for anyone stepping into a cinema and so I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t give it a shot.