Looking Back at THE HOST - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Looking Back at THE HOST

Alexander Wallace goes for a dip in Seoul's Han River.
Bong Joon-ho has justly been showered with praise over the past few years, culminating in his well-earned victory at the 2020 Academy Awards for his biting satire Parasite. Before that, he directed the cult classic Snowpiercer, which is a vivid depiction of what could happen to our species and our planet should we continue barreling along like blindfolded lemmings. But we’re not talking either of those films today; rather, we’re talking his 2006 monster movie The Host.

The plot of The Host starts in 2000, as an American military base dumps toxic chemicals into the sewers of Seoul. Fast forward six years (to the year that the film was released), those chemicals so carelessly discarded have now mutated some small life form in the sewers into a monstrosity that begins to terrorize the South Korean capital city. Most of the plot concerns Park Gang-du (played by the great Song Kang-ho) trying to find his daughter Park Hyun-seo (played with great ability by Go Ah-sung) who has been kidnapped by the monstrosity, called the Gweomul.
The action in this film is visceral. The initial attack by the Gwoemul on a tranquil riverside park is harrowing, as the crowds and our characters begin to realize that something is fishy in that stretch of the Han River. The monster itself is a deeply discomforting … thing that defies easy description; more than anything else, it reminds me of some of the Zerg creatures from StarCraft II. It establishes itself in the sewers, where much of the action of the film takes place, and sets the scene for some of the best sequences in the entire film.

Thematically, The Host is about bureaucracy. The great metropolis of Seoul becomes a target of some Lovecraftian horror because of the callousness of the American military in South Korea; for this reason, it has become quite popular in North Korea. However, the movie never descends into knee-jerk, simplistic anti-Americanism. During the chaos on the riverfront, one of the people who actually helps subdue the monster (temporarily) is an American serviceman named Donald White (David Joseph Anselmo), who is portrayed as a sympathetic character.

But the Americans are not the only target of Bong’s anti-bureaucratic invectives. The South Korean government, through its various agencies involved in the operation to contain the beast, is also in Bong's cross-hair. The film veers into some dangerously familiar territory as the monster is found to spread a virus as it attacks the city; the government’s response echoes what we see in our fight against a microscopic monster as our elected officials have to deal with something they can’t whisk away with hollow rhetoric. Some moments, though, seem very uncomfortable in light of certain … bullheaded people nowadays, but that cannot be held as the film’s responsibility.
In addition to the myriad bureaucratic incompetence, there is a strong feeling of family; after all, much of The Host revolves around a father trying to save his daughter. This adds a very human core to the film, one that is bolstered by how the rest of the family participates in the rescue effort. You get many moments of familial camaraderie, with the most coming from Gang-du himself, as he works at his food truck near the riverfront (from which he sees the initial attack).

Overall, this film shows Bong Joon-ho’s talents very well, talents he has had even before he began to be a critical darling in the West. Those who enjoyed the ruthless social satire of Parasite or Snowpiercer will be quite satisfied with The Host; those who want a smart, sharp monster movie will likewise have no regrets.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad