General Release 2006
119 minutes approx
The Park family has split up. Grandad and father run a food stall on the bank of the Han River. Aunt is a national archery bronze medal winner and uncle is an unemployed ex-agitator. All of them come together when the centre of the family, a young schoolgirl, gets eaten by a giant monstoid that comes out of the river without warning and starts a rampage. One mobile phone call later and it's clear that she's not dead, but being stored in a monster's larder in the sewers. The family pull together to locate her and take on the monster in order to rescue her. The governments of both Korea and the US get in the way, but these are ordinary downtrodden folk for whom survival on the street is a daily battle and the wills of government mean a lot less than the life of one little girl.
A Korean creature feature is unlikely to rank high on anyone's wish lists of films they must see. THE HOST, however, is the best creature feature to come out of anywhere in a good long time. It takes the self-referencing irony-laden likes of SLITHER out the back and bitch slaps them till they bleed.
The cast is completely unknown (to us at least) and that really helps the film as you have no idea who's going to live or die. The film takes that notion a few steps further by not letting you know either until the crunching of the monster's jaws do the job (or don't considering its habit of regurgitating its meals for later consumption). This unpredictability extends to the family, every one of which gets the chance to redeem themselves, mess up, be the hero and die horribly. It's only at the final credits that you know who has come through. This makes the film a refreshing breath of (admittedly foetid) air, the plot taking side trips down alleyways not expected to provide genuine surprises, genuine scares, genuine tension and genuine laughs. THE HOST gleefully takes the formula and plays with it, only ever showing you a hint of cliche in order to set up expectations that are then immediately overturned.
As with all good B movies, THE HOST is driven by the concerns of its age, in this case the rampant pollution, the influence of the United States in Korea, the crushing poverty and institutional corruption. All of this is intrinsic to the plot and setting, but is never once rubbed in your face.
The Monster is, of course, at the centre of any creature feature and THE HOST has a winner. It's a mix of any number of marine animals, making it initially an unlikely looking beastie, but then it is supposed to be a mutation and mutation doesn't take into account aesthetics. It is brilliantly rendered by the CGI team with a real sense of weight and presence. It also has enough quirks of behaviour to mark it out as a realistic creature. It's graceful and powerful when swinging from bridges or swimming in the river, but incredibly clumsy on its feet.
THE HOST makes no apologies for itself, gets down to business with barely a pause for breath and keeps going right up to the very end. This is the kind of thing that got us into science fiction in the first place and we loved it.Top
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