The Host Bong Joon-ho

The Host Bong Joon-ho
What better way to revive the sagging monster movie genre than to begin with a revelation that the titular threat is a result of chemical waste dumping at the hands of an arrogant American military official? Actually based on a true incident that occurred on a U.S. army base in Seoul, The Host goes one step further and gives an extreme, man-eating consequence to such careless environmental damage.

Much like Godzilla, this "host” comes from out of nowhere and runs rampant but that’s where the comparisons end. This slimy, tentacled beast doesn’t have the considerable panache of ’Zilla, instead causing mayhem by swallowing hapless Koreans. When it takes schoolgirl Park Hyun-seo, her dysfunctional family — an infantile, nitwit father, hearty grandfather, slippery uncle and world champion archer for an aunt — go on a do-or-die mission to track down the creature and rescue their little girl. But not before the Korean military lay down miles of red tape and quarantine the foursome (for treatment of a fallacious virus), making their rescue mission that much more difficult and dangerous.

Filmmaker Bong has loaded this lengthy scare-fest with sweeping references and commentaries that take a bite out of modern culture: the mistreatment and scheming by an oppressive government, the junk food glut, obsessive consumerism and the breakdown (and later, build-up) of family dynamics. The laughs are also more than we’re used to from such deadly subject matter, but the Koreans have a way of effortlessly slapping on a coat of humour to just about any dire situation.

Bong’s mix of horror and hilarity blends well into the terrific special effects (the monster is quite ugly and original), provided by the big guns behind such blockbusters as the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings franchises. Hopefully, passionate, entertaining, thoughtful features like The Host will encourage a resurgence in ecological horror flicks, which flooded ’50s cinema, because never before has such conscious filmmaking been more relevant. (Chungeorahm)