At a morgue in an U.S. Army base located in South Korea, an orderly is told by an U.S. Military Pathologist to dump toxic chemicals down the drain. The drain leads to the Han River, where the chemicals create a monstrous mutation which reeks havoc on a park just off the Han River.
The monster abducts a young girl named Hyun Seo (Ah-sung Ko) whose father, Park Gang-du (Kahn Gang-du) - a daggy, single parent who suffers from narcolepsy – along with his father Hie-bong (Hie-bong Byeon), his unemployed alcoholic brother Nam-il (Hae-il Park), and his Olympic archer sister Nam-joo (Du-na Bae), swear revenge on the creature and try to save little Hyun Seo.
The Host pokes fun at monster movies while also laying down the foundations as a very effective horror movie itself. In the process, writer/director Joon-ho Bong provides commentary on the effects human beings have had on the environment, the manipulation of the mass media, American foreign policy, and the fight between activists and the establishment.
The monster is a unique and effective creation. Designed by Chin Wei-chen, the monster is a strange breed of squid, amphibian and reptile, and was brought to life by special effects guru’s The Weta Workshop (the New Zealand company who worked on the “Lord of the Rings” movies) and animatronics extraordinaire John Cox and his Creature Workshop.
Hyun Seo’s crusty, old school grandfather is a real hoot. Byung-woo Lee’s score, Hyung-ku Kim’s cinematography and Seon Min Kim’s editing are also very good.
As far as the horror elements are concerned, Joon-ho Bong is on top of his game. There are a number of tense, frightening scenes, with the attack on the park an especially thrilling, heart pounding sequence. Moments when the monster is shown in the sewers are strikingly gritty, with its regurgitation of numerous human bones a stomach churning watch.
Yet Joon-ho Bong’s ill-advised attempts at humour ruin the movies tense atmosphere, with many would be key dramatic scenes undone by a strange, over the top brand of comedy. This alone stops the film from reaching the blood curling heights which it could of easily attained..
However, that being said, it is a much better quality production compared to the American horror films released in the last several years, which rely on an over abundance of gore and torture than suspense and intrigue. A very good film, but too many shifts in tone stop it from becoming the horror movie it could have been.