Rental Review - The Host (2006)

The Host (2006), R, 119 minutes - After thoroughly enjoying Snowpiercer the other day, I decided to look into Joon-ho Bong's other films.  I figured what better place to start than with The Host (not to be confused with the 2013 Stephanie Meyer novel-based film of the same name), the film that he was working on when he first discovered Le Transperceneige (the graphic novel inspiration for Snowpiercer).

The Host revolves around the appearance of an amphibious monster years after the illegal dumping of formaldehyde polluted Seoul, South Korea's Han River .  The Park family runs a food stand along the banks of the river and during the monster's first public attack, their youngest, Hyun-seo (Ah-sung Ko) is swept up by the monster and taken back to it's lair in the sewers beneath the Wonhyo Bridge.  Hyun-seo's father Gang-doo (Kang-ho Song) was one of the people who came in contact with the monster in the effort to fight it off.  After the government swoops in and quarantines everyone involved with the monster's riverside rampage it is feared that those who made contact with the monster may be infected by a virus.  Gang-doo, his father Hie-bong (Hie-bong Byeon), brother Nam-il (Hae-il Park), and sister, bronze medal archer Nam-Joo (Doona Bae) attempt to escape custody in search of Hyun-seo as the authorities, believing she is dead, refuse to send out a search party.

The Host stands out among other modern monster movies in that we not only get to see the monster (full bodied no less), but we see it early and often throughout the film.  It is also one of the more unique monster designs that I can remember, appearing like a large mutated fish, which fits quite well with the origin set forth at the beginning of the film.  I'm not sure if it is because of the translation to English for the subtitles or if it was originally intended this way, but some of the characterizations seem a little goofy at the start (other than Gang-doo's randomly dozing off being explained).  This isn't a bad thing though as it adds a little bit of humor to the story.  There are more than enough well shot, more dramatic and emotional sequences later on in the film.

The characters and their efforts to rescue their loved one are relate-able and the monster design/effects are quite good for a low budget foreign film.  If you're a fan of monster flicks, The Host is worthy of your time (assuming you don't mind subtitles).  I really enjoyed it, and will be continuing to look into Joon-ho Bong's pre-Snowpiercer directorial efforts.












*****SPOILERS*****

- The man who orders his assistant to pour all of the old formaldehyde down the drain at the beginning of the film is played by Scott Wilson.  Most people will recognize him from his time as Hershel on The Walking Dead.

- The dumping of the formaldehyde was based on actual, similar events that occurred at a United States military facility located in Seoul, South Korea in February of 2000.

- The Host marks the first of two times that Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko portrayed a father/daughter duo in a Joon-ho Bong film (the second time being 2013's Snowpiercer).

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