The Host : not really a monster movie

A box office hit in South Korea, The Host is a family adventure masquerading as a monster movie. The movie begins with American army scientists dumping toxic waste into the Han River, and a few years later, a creature emerges from the water to terrorize the happy folks enjoying their time on the river banks. The monster captures a school girl amidst the chaos and escapes. The government decides to hold all the survivors of the incident in quarantine – but the father of the school girl receives a phone call from his daughter. The girl’s immediate family escapes from the army hospital and launch a clandestine mission to save the girl.

The Host does not rely on the creepy monster to dazzle and scare viewers. One of the reasons I think it is closer in spirit to a family adventure is the director’s approach – the monster is clearly revealed in the first 15 minutes of the movie and then only appears sporadically afterwards. The film focuses much more on the family’s determination to locate and rescue their missing relative. Mass paranoia about lethal viruses, anti-American sentiments and over-the-top comedy (with a distinctive Korean flavour) are tossed into the mix for good measure.

The special effects featured in the film are serviceable but not state-of-the-art. I found the monster intriguing enough – but the film does not bother explaining why a fish mutates into a creature with legs, can breathe out of water, or why it would stock up on food. I suppose the director really is not interested in those aspects.

The American poster clearly positions the film as a monster movie

This Korean poster places the emphasis on the people aspects of the movie

Another Korean poster shows the girl captured by an unknown beast

The verdict : recommended, an entertaining pop corn movie