Starring: Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Bae Doona
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Running Time: 120 mins
The Host is a South Korean film about a monster that emerges from the Han River, and indiscriminately begins attacking people. When one young girl is pulled back into the river with the creature, her family must do everything to save her before time runs out.
Monster movies can be really, really dumb, particularly if you just go with the premise of a massive creature turning up in a city and killing everyone. However, The Host, which largely does follow that line, is different, as it manages to bring strong drama and depth to its characters and plot, all the while retaining a surprisingly strong air of mystery about it, all of which makes for a pretty exciting watch throughout.
Let’s start off with the thing at the centre of this movie: the monster himself. Although twelve years later, the special effects may not hold up exceptionally well, the way the monster is used in the film is pretty clever, as we don’t really know anything about it. Apart from a very brief prologue that effectively details where the monster came from, we aren’t told why it attacks people, or anything else about the way it lives.
And yet, that mystery is starkly contrasted by the fact that the monster takes centre stage throughout the movie. The Host doesn’t try and pull a Godzilla and create mystery and tension by simply barely showing the monster, but instead uses an effective screenplay to make for deeper and stronger mystery, and therefore satisfies those watching the movie for both simple action thrills and exciting mystery and drama.
However, calling this nothing more than a monster movie would be misleading. Yes, it’s all centred around the events after a massive monster attack, but the story that emanates from that is a deeper family drama, as we watch a man desperately try to rescue his daughter, with his wider family all coming into play to help out with the mission.
As a result, the movie isn’t just mindless action and monster attacks, but manages to offer a good and emotionally engaging dramatic story in the downtime. I wouldn’t say that it’s the most moving or enthralling drama, however it offers up enough intrigue and genuine emotion to make for a riveting watch, and one more impressive than a simple action movie.
What’s more is that the performances help hugely in making for a more dramatically engrossing watch. Song Kang-ho is undoubtedly the strongest, giving his character far more dramatic depth and emotion than you’d expect from the get-go, while young Ah Sung-ko is excellent in the role of the young girl who is captured, impressing as a good action hero as well as showing her extreme distress at the situation early on.
Overall, The Host is a pretty strong film. It may not be a terrifying nor utterly emotionally captivating drama, however with strong drama and a fantastic air of mystery throughout, it’s an exciting and far more riveting film than most monster movies, which is why I’m giving it a 7.5.