Written by Jámon Y. Huevos
Korean director Bong Joon-ho has created the most memorable “monster” movie in decades with his beautiful film The Host. Taking place in present day South Korea, The Host is about three generations of a family dealing with the disappearance of their youngest member, Hyun-seo. When an extremely large catfish-looking, monkey-climbing, human-consuming, chemically-created monster comes out of the river to wreak havoc on the locals, it’s up to Hyun-seo’s father, aunt, uncle, and grandfather to ignore their idiotic government and rescue her before she loses her life to a gruesome digestive process.
There is so much to praise about The Host, but the most astounding accomplishment is its ability to walk the thin line between humor and pathos. Bong Joon-ho somehow finds a way to get the audience to laugh while a family mourns and to feel like crying while government clowns make a mockery of dealing with an emergency. This is done by paying attention to depth of character in the way that only Jaws has accomplished previously. You want the family to achieve its goals; you want the government to be knocked down; you want the host to find peace in a society it neither created nor necessarily wants to be forced to live in.
There is a long-standing theory that to show the monster is to kill the effect. When examining Aliens, we can agree that this theory is not always correct: it is not necessarily what the monster looks like, it is how it is utilized. The monster in The Host is especially frightening because it invariably shows up in broad daylight, in full view, and moving fast, fast, fast. There will be complaints about the realism of the CGI in spots. To this, I say, deal with it. The audience is told in the first thirty seconds that the real monster here is governments that wish to clean up what they have decided is dirty in this world. And, believe me, those monsters couldn’t be more lifelike. If you cannot take a jab about American warmongering, then this film is not for you; the gloves are off here, and the United States (and, to a lesser degree, the South Korean government) takes a brutal, funny beating in every other scene.
The Host is the end result of pitch-perfect directing, acting, writing, cinematography, special effects, and two pinches of luck and charm. It will make you laugh while it frightens you. The Host reaches the greatest heights of filmmaking and is a gift to those of us who believe movies can not only be entertaining, but also stand as great art.