The Host (2006)
We start with pouring gallons of used formaldehyde into the Han River. This isn’t going to end well. Yes I’m watching Korean cinema again and this one has a big water inhabiting monster. By now you’ll have made the connection, it really doesn’t take long. Polluted water = giant mutant creature. It is utterly bonkers, genuinely devastating in places and oddly amusing. Gang-du is not the sharpest tool in the box, eeking out a living with his father selling squid to tourists by the river and he gets a front row seat to the monster’s first appearance. No teasing here, a glimpse of a tail, the suggestion of an eye. No, bang! 15 minutes in, MONSTER. Broad daylight, cards firmly on the table. Okay it’s slightly hyper real CGI, but it looks good. Moves fast on four legs, big whippy tail, a mouth like predator and it eats people. People including Gand-du’s daughter! Being eaten by this thing though doesn’t always spell the end, mostly it does, but it does some rather disgusting looking regurgitating and Hyan-seo survives. Considering the genre we’re in, there’s very little grandstanding and what little there is, is easily diffused by the quirky comedy. It’s more farce than anything else. So when Gang-du gets a call from his presumed dead daughter, it’s seems perfectly acceptable and off we go on a rescue mission. Once Gang-du, his father, his bronze medal winning sister and unemployed college graduate brother have escaped the authorities in quarantine in slap-stick style, they head for the sewers on the hunt for Hyun-seo. She’s captive in the monsters makeshift pantry of bodies, the only one alive until a new recruit drops in. A young boy, younger than her and the two school kids try to find a way out, whilst her family attempt to find her, via getting attacked by the monster, lobotomised and killed! Not all at once. In the midst of all this, the authorities are warning of a virus, one they can’t actually find any evidence of, but are planning to eradicate with the release of a biowarfare nerve agent... see, bonkers. To be honest, as fun as it is, it really could’ve done with being half an hour shorter and just a little bit more focused. The ending is, well it’s the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, but without the budget. All in all it’s pretty nonsensical and bloated, definitely a case of the chase being better than the catch. I did expect a little more, namely because it’s directed by Bong Joon Ho, of Parasite fame and the lead here, is the same guy who played the father in the Oscar winner too. All I can say is, he’s improved a lot in the last 14 years.