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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'The Host': A Uniquely Transgressive and Darkly Comical South Korean Monster Movie

Movie poster for the South Korean film The Host starring Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong and Go Ah-sung

"The Host" ("Gwoemul") is a uniquely transgressive South Korean monster movie from 2007, about a large amphibious sea creature that rises from the depths of the Han River to wreak havoc on the city of Seoul. When young Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung) is captured by the monster, her family members must bond together in a desperate bid to save her.

In the film's opening sequence, we watch as an American military scientist (Scott Wilson) orders his assistant to dump hundreds of bottles of formaldehyde down a drain leading to the Han River. Over the following years, strange sightings of an ominous beast are reported, as the Han's fish population continually declines. When the creature ultimately makes an open-air attack on the citizens of Seoul, crushing and devouring many bystanders, Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) must react quickly after the formidable beast ensnares his daughter. Banding together with his father Hee-bong (Byun Hee-bong), sister Nam-joo (Bae Doona) and brother, Nam-il (Park Hae-il), they launch an unholy campaign of retribution upon the terrifying behemoth in a desperate bid to rescue their beloved Hyun-seo.

Written and directed by renowned South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho ("Parasite", "Snowpiercer"), "The Host" is a singular and exceptional addition to the horror genre, bringing intelligence, inventiveness, dark comedy and enormous wit to the proceedings. Shaded with varying degrees of social commentary and political exhortation, Bong has constructed an often outrageous hybrid of thriller and farce, with a keen eye toward character and story development. It's a thrillingly one-of-a-kind creation—an early triumph from one of the most celebrated filmmakers of the modern era.


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