One of the fascinating things about watching a “Foreign Film” is seeing how one cultures perception of a given situation differentiates from your own countries. In the South Korean monster movie The Host we’re treated to a well put together monster movie that has no over exaggerated ideals of grandeur. A monster is created, it wreaks havoc on a small area and it is hunted. This isn’t a global epidemic, it’s a localized incident, something rare for a monster movie. The amphibious creature grows and mutates into a creature that is able to traverse on land as well through water; A predator that hunts just as openly during the day as it does at night. Rather than follow the governments efforts on destroying this threat, the story follows a single family as they seek to save (The daughter of Kang-ho Song one, of the main characters) who has been captured by the monster.
The Host offers a unique perspective as we see the relationships between the various family members shortly before they are united in their quest to save the little girl. Kang-ho works with his father at a snack shack type of operation on the Han river. It is quickly shown that he is a loving, yet lazy, man with little ambition. His siblings include a brother who, though unemployed, feels himself more important than the rest of his family, constantly grumbling. He also has a sister who is a professional archer that often lets her nerves interfere with her profession. The family drama is equal parts devastating and hilarious. Through the over dramatic moments however shines a touching story that, though exaggerated, can be all too familiar. Old wounds and hurt feelings are set aside, the family is drawn together by a tragedy that they long to fix.
Along with the drama comes the monster. The great aquatic creature that emerges from the depths of the Han river is a truly unique monster. It’s interesting to look at and fun to see ordinary people fight back against it. The movie doesn’t adhere to the school of thought that keeps the monster hidden for the majority of the film. Within the first 15 minutes we see it in all it’s glory. It happens quick and it happens unexpectedly, which seems to add to the realism of the situation. Part of what makes the monster so hard to destroy is it’s speed and dexterity. It isn’t particularly a very durable monster, a few good hits from a big enough gun just might do the trick. It makes the monster seem incredibly powerful, yet not indestructible. I mention this because it makes the small hunting party that the family forms feel like they have a real chance against defeating the monster.
Ultimately, The Host, though flawed, is a charming little monster movie with humor to go along with the tragedy and terror. The film offers a sobering view of family relationships, responsibility and coping with tragedy. It also happens to be a very fun foreign “scary movie” to boot.