The Host centres around a dysfunctional family of misfits and follows their actions and relationships in the wake of an unexpected disaster. Mixing farcical and slapstick comedy with grimy realistic horror and moments of tragedy, this Korean film is definitely a rewarding experience.
Park Hee-bong runs a food stall on the banks of the Han river with his dimwitted narcoleptic son Gang-du. They are poor but don’t seem to be struggling or unhappy. Hee-bong’s other son Park Nam-il is slightly more successful having completed college. He always wears a suit and so appears more respectable but is in fact an unemployed alcoholic. The third child Park Nam-joo is a competitive archer who could be the best in Korea if only she would stop dithering about taking her shots.
Gang-du’s daughter Hyun-seo is the star of the family. Contrary to the traits all the others show, she is smart, pretty, resourceful and kind. The whole family love her as if she were the daughter of each of them.
So when a huge mutant river monster emerges from the Han river and carries off Hyun-seo, this fractured family comes together in its resolve to find her and destroy the monster.
Before they can start their rescue mission though they must escape from the military imposed quarantine area that has been set up to contain anyone who has been in contact with the creature. Then they have to search through all the sewers in Seoul before finally arriving at the inevitable final showdown.
There are plenty of action scenes in this movie and quite a lot of CG but they manage to merge nicely into the story of an “ordinary” family struggling to get itself back together after a tragic event. The CG monster is pretty good until right at the end when it starts to feel that they have run out of SF budget. Likewise the comedy aspects are strong enough to make you laugh out loud and the tragic scenes make you cry but neither dominates the story and the whole seems nicely balanced.
No idea why it is called The Host, the Korean title Goemul literally translates as “monster” according to Wikipedia.