Shamefully, I’ve only seen one of Bong Joon Ho’s works: Parasite. But at least I saw it in the cinema and gleefully rooted for it to win all of the awards (especially that groundbreaking Oscar for Best Picture). I’d heard of this but when I did initially had to do a double-take. The guy from Parasite directed…a monster movie?
And I’m so glad he did, because I’ve never seen anything like it.
My interest for The Host was already piqued by BJH. But then I forget it also stars Song Kang Ho AND Bae Doona (who I will follow to the ends of the earth and need to see her entire back catalogue because she just effortlessly elevates anything she’s in). But my interest didn’t need to be piqued for long because THAT opening scene was honestly the best I’ve ever witnessed in any kaiju/monster film: A huge slithery creature terrorises locals and tourists on the banks of the Han River and drags Gang Doo (Song)’s young daughter Hyun Seo (Go Ah Sung) into the water.
Her funeral is banded together with several others of people who died that day. Gang Doo’s there with his father (Byun Hee Bong) and soon his brother Nam Il (Park Hae Il) and Nam Joo (Doona) arrive. The group collapses in wails and tears (which is traditionally how Koreans mourn, unlike the stuffy quietness we do here [though neither is wrong – they’re just both different), only to be literally trampled over by press photographers and hall workers asking someone to move their car. Soon government agents arrive, asking if anyone was exposed to the touch or bodily fluids of the creature, and presently gas the room and abduct everyone who said yes – including Gang Doo and his family.
In the middle of the night in hospital (where he’s being subjected to tests), Gang Doo receives a call – from his daughter. It’s got terrible reception and he can only hear that she’s trapped in somewhere that looks like ‘a sewer’, but the call cuts out before he can wake anyone. He tries to tell anyone who will listen – doctors, agents, army members, the police – but nobody will believe him and instead efforts are focussed on the fact that anyone who made contact with the creature has contracted a terrible, communicable virus, meaning the creature is the host…
There’s so much plot already, but it’s spread very evenly over 2 hours of monstrous thrills, very dark humour, wry social commentary and moments of genuine heart. So, definitely a Bong Joon Ho movie. Each of the characters is rounded and loved, giving each actor just enough to play with amid the chaos, so you really do root for the well-being of every one of them, even the bit parts. At its core, it’s a film about family, but also a hair-raising monster movie at the-not-usually-seen ground level. I’m sad to find out that it never got a sequel (despite everyone signing on again) – due to, unbelievably, lack of funding. After Parasite’s deserved success I’d imagine that wouldn’t be an issue anymore. Bong Joon Ho is such a compelling director to me because of his willingness to work in multiple genres and I freaking adored Parasite, but I’d love for him to do another straight-up horror if not a sequel to this gem.