I often find myself looking for the next best monster film. I often find most of the modern monster films to be mediocre and or non engaging, nothing spectacular, nothing that can grip me into its story or characters. I believe however that I have finally found the next best monster film.
The Host takes place in South Korea, mostly near the Han River. The film opens with a military pathologist commanding his assistant to pour 100 bottles of formaldehyde down the sink. Though reluctant at first, because it would lead to contaminating the Han River, he chooses to do it anyway because it is however his job.
The film then skip a few years and we now are introduced to the Park family a dysfunctional family indeed but we sense that there is a strong emotional connection between all of them. There is the dim witted Gang-du, his father the strong willed Hee-bong, Gang-du’s alcoholic but caring brother Nam-il, Nam-joo, Gang-du and Nam-il’s sister, and then there is Hyun-Seo Gang-du’s pride and joy, his daughter.
Gang-du and Hee-bong run a food stand together which so happens to be near the Han River. On one day there is a fairly large creature hanging below the bridge which is built over the river. At first the thing seems harmless but we soon find out that is not the case at all. I would love to explain more of the plot to this wonderful gem but I would hate to give anything away.
What makes this movie so special is that it is not your typical monster film. There are so many elements mixed into the film that it’s very difficult to call it just a monster movie. Drama and comedy are constantly thrown in and it could have been a catastrophe. Thanks to one smart script and such likeable characters this does not happen.
The way the scenes in the movie play out is what makes this film shine. For example, when the monster is first introduced as a viscous creature rather than having a scene in which the thing pops up and frightens you, the camera pans to where you can see the creature in the distance on shore running forward at an incredible pace. The people standing by are stunned at first to what they are seeing but soon run for their lives, or try to at least.
For the first time, in a film such as this, I actually cared about the characters. I thought at some points I was actually watching a real family struggle to survive rather than just actors. The monster is even a character in a way. The creature is such a vile being and ruthless nonetheless that I wanted it to die. In most monster movies the director wants you to root for the monster and hope that it kills everything in sight, but Bong Joon-Ho(the director of The Host) does not want you to feel that way.
The constant terror that surrounds every moment of the film is enough to make Stephen King shiver. The creature is not the biggest thing that the movie makers could produce but it doesn’t have to be. The monster is more terrifying because it is incredibly fast, gruesome, and one ugly being.
The Host is a film that any director in Hollywood would love to sign their name to. It’s a shame most will pass on this film because it is in subtitles or I should say mostly in subtitles.
The films heart is what separates it from the rest of any disaster or monster film. I hope that when our very own Hollywood decides to create another big budget monster film that they watch this first so that they know that if you want it to be successful you must have heart in the middle of a large monstrous creature rampaging through a massive city.