The Host (Gwoemul)
South Korea 2006

Opening 29 Mar 2007

Directed by: Joon-ho Bong
Writing credits: Chul-hyun Baek, Joon-ho Bong
Principal actors: Kang-ho Song, Hie-bong Byeon, Hae-il Park, Du-na Bae, Ah-sung Ko

In this Korean film Hee-bong runs a snack bar on the beach with little help from his three grown children: one mentally slow son, one university trained son who rarely dirties his hands, much less his fancy clothes, and one Olympic archery champion daughter who fails to release the arrow. Their pride and joy is small granddaughter Hyun-seo. Little do they know but a cute animal happily splashing in the river will reappear five years later, no longer cute, but a huge meat-eating monster, part fish and part dragon, the result of arrogant pollution on the part of American scientists. It terrorizes the screaming population, captures its prey and drags it down into the sewers of the city. One victim is poor Hyun-seo. The rest of the family mobilizes to rescue her, although all four of them together have fewer wits than Hyun-seo herself. They work together, are separated, make progress, run into the law, and communicate via mobile phone, mostly in the pouring rain. The ending is happy by pragmatic, stoic Asian standards.

This could be your average midnight, science fiction, B-movie except that there are many twists and turns in the plot which goes from hysterical grief to help from unexpected sources to intelligent choices to plain luck, and all of that is accompanied by subtle slapstick. It’s funny. It’s Laurel and Hardy. The digs at Americans are not so subtle. Not only is the U.S. responsible for the catastrophe, Americans have no solution to the problem and intentionally mislead the population. Director Bong Joon-ho’s film was the most successful ever to show in Korea and is definitely to be recommended, simply as an example of successful Asian cinema. The special effects come from a San Francisco company called The Orphanage which was responsible for Day After Tomorrow and Sin City. (Becky Tan)

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