Korean special-effects-laden horror with comedic overtones sees dysfunctional family united in opposition to a gruesome foe from parts unknown. The Parks are an average suburban Seoul family; Park Senior, in his 60's, runs a kiosk by the Han River; his eldest son is a bit of a waste of skin whose wife has left him years ago with a young daughter; his younger son is a layabout with no intention of working; his daughter alone makes him proud - an prizewinning archer of note. Granddaughter little Hyun-Seo is the apple of everyone's eye so when she's abducted by a horrible monster that emerges from the depths of the Han one day, the family is righteously upset. The prospective loss of the only thing holding them all together, galvanizes them into a monster-hunting posse extraordinaire and off they go to slay the dreadful beast.
has managed to become Korea's most successful film to date, winning acclaim both domestically and internationally, and it's easy to see why. At first glance, it looks like any other monster movie--an amphibious creature from the depths stalks and devours an urban population--but there's actually much, much more going on beneath the surface. Not that there needs to be: although it has a fairly hefty 119-minute runtime, The Host
is fast moving, with plenty of action and a truly gruesome-looking monster. Visually, it's a gorgeous movie, with stunning special effects and beautiful settings (even the rather nasty sewer scenes look perversely great). However, the real crux of The Host
isn't really anything to do with the monster: at heart, this is a family drama, not a horror movie.
The story focuses on one small family and how they react to the weird goings-on all around them. When the youngest member of the family, Hyun-seo, is snatched by the titular monster, the family is devastated until a call from her mobile phone gives them fresh hope. Unfortunately, everyone who came into contact with the being has been quarantined due to a virus scare, so they have to escape the Korean authorities to go on a rescue mission. Then the American army steps in, and all hell breaks loose...
It's a very original idea, with nuanced and well-written characters, plenty of humour, and a darker undercurrent of social and political commentary, topped off with a thrilling monster-killing adventure. Brilliant, in other words. --Sarah Dobbs