The Host (2006): Family, politics and a South Korean fish monster


There’s something fishy in South Korea’s Han River, and it’s not just the fish.  It’s Bong Joon-ho’s The Host!

Well, actually, it is sort of about the fish…or, rather, a giant fish creature who has a habit of attacking and eating people. Indeed, Bong Joon-ho’s The Host runs with that premise, and does so very well. While it could have been a depressing environmentalist movie about fish dying off (which most people have heard about anyway), this movie about sea-life mutation entertains, enlightens, impresses and possibly even scares.

The giant, monstrous question is: What have we done to the water? Or, if we don’t want to ask such questions, we can just grab some popcorn and watch the dang movie. It’s nice to have options! Along the way, we meet a nice family. There’s fatherly Hee-bong (Byun Hee-bong), his son, Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho), his daughter Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung), his sister and skilled archer Nam-joo (Bae Doona), and Hee-bong’s brother Nam-il (Park Hae-il), a drunken political activist.

Normally, a person might become lost or confused in a nest of characters like this, but I personally didn’t have such a problem. I focused mostly on the creature running (and swimming) around and attacking people. Can they outrun it? Can they fight back, possibly even kill it? Very straightforward questions like these dominated my consciousness.

The Host Has Great Effects

I didn’t often think of the river,  the main family, or the add-on plot about the creature being host to some virus.  Also, while the germ scientists running amok to contain things (and people) was decent, it just didn’t hold my attention like that dang fish.

Mostly, my eyes were on that beast and the overall excellent special effects (which is great, considering it’s mostly CG — which often fails to deliver the goods, in my opinion).

That being said, there are plenty of gripping moments with Hyun-seo, who gets kidnapped by the monster, and is forced to dwell in a sewer system with the creature. Will she get away from the monster? If so, how will she finally outwit it? Watching her try to escape is definitely an entertaining aspect of The Host. Of course, you also get to see the creature chow down on a few unlucky human specimens, which makes the kidnapping of Hyun-seo seem all the more unique. How did the creature decide who it would kill, and who it would save for later?

Kong, Anyone?

In retrospect, I wonder if this story element was modeled after King Kong at all. Obviously, Kong had also kidnapped a female rather than simply killing and/or swallowing her. Why? Because he was apparently enchanted by her beauty — which, honestly, is a bit far-fetched, despite it being a likable movie and everything. Thankfully, at no point did The Host‘s fish creature seem to be in love with Hyun-seo or any one (or any thing else). Instead, the creature was probably full.

Now, if I want to delve deeper, I could say the creature probably symbolizes hardship faced by the family unit, in all its disgusting and potentially horrifying wonder. However, one could just enjoy The Host as a cinematic ride.

The Verdict?

The Host could easily be considered a modern classic monster movie with excellent special effects and a few thought-provoking story elements. I would recommend it to anyone willing to watch a movie with subtitles (which, honestly, you should be willing to occasionally do anyway). I don’t know if it’s a masterpiece, but it’s well done and the actors are competent while seemingly knowing their collective role. That is to say, the monster is the real star in a monster movie, as it should be. The makers of The Host didn’t forget that, and neither will the audience.

Next: 12 horror characters synonymous with their actors

Have you seen The Host? Are you planning to now that you’ve seen Wade’s thoughts? Let us know how you feel in the comments below.