Summer of Horror: The Host Monster movie that's not really about the monster at all

Well, this movie was not what I thought it was going to be.

Strike another long-awaited Summer of Horror mainstay off the list. The Host is a 2006 acclaimed Korean monster movie that appeared to be kind of a Kaiju, or at least, “big monster attacks city”, creature feature. And while there is a monster, and it does indeed attack, and it is somewhat large, that is not what the movie is at all. You’d be surprised now little screen time the monster actually has (possibly due in part to the expensive WETA Workshop CGI).

Instead, the majority of the focus is on a small family of characters attempting to locate the spot where this monster is storing its stash of stolen humans, including the main character’s daughter. The real villain for the majority of the picture is the Korean government, working in concert with the United States, recklessly quarantining, experimenting upon, and detaining people exposed to the monster thought to be transmitting a deadly virus (hence the title). Both the South Korean officials and the US agents present are portrayed alternately as incompetent or sinister, earning this movie a rare, icky endorsement from North Korea back in the day. Of course, it’s meant to be satire. 

Maybe somebody more educated in Korean culture can explain to me the fixation on bumbling, single fathers of girls being thrust into crisis situations. This is the third Korean film (in a row?) I’ve seen with that central element. Also present and accounted for: the jarring tonal shifts; broad slapstick comedy appearing right in the middle of tense, dramatic scenes.

All in all though, The Host is a good movie. I’m too ignorant of Korean cinema to comment on where this ranks among similar works, but it was thoroughly entertaining for the duration of its 2 hour runtime, which breezed by. You can watch it now on Shudder.

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