The Parks seem to lead a quite ordinary and peaceful life, but maybe they are a bit poorer than the average Seoulite. Hee-bong's elder son Gang-du is an immature and incompetent man in his 40s, whose wife left home long ago. Nam-il is the youngest son, an unemployed grumbler, and daughter Nam-joo is an archery medalist and member of the national team. One day, an unidentified monster suddenly appears from the depths of the Han River and spreads panic and death, and Gang-du's daughter Hyun-seo is carried off by the monster and disappears. All of the family members are in a great agony because they lost someone very dear to them. But when they find out she is still alive, they resolve to save her.
Directed by: Joon-ho Bong
. Starring: Kang-ho Song
, Hee-Bong Byun
, Hae-il Park
, Doona Bae
, Ko Asung
, Dal-su Oh
, Jae-eung Lee
, Dong-ho Lee
, Je-mun Yun
, David Anselmo
, Martin Lord Cayce
, Cristen Cho
, Philip Hersh
. Music by: Byung-woo Lee
Many monster movies suffer from being over-the-top, repetitive, and cheesy nowadays. There are many more flaws to that genre, but here are the main ones I have with many of them. It's pretty hard for me to find good modern monster films. It is always refreshing to see a modern monster film which stands out amongst the rest of them as a result of doing a few things differently and better, making a highly effective piece of filmmaking. This is where "The Host" comes into place.
After a fish gets mutated as a result of formaldehyde getting dumped into the "Han River", a slow-witted man named Park Gang-Du who operates a snack bar in a park does what he can to save his daughter, Hyun-seo, from its clutches after she is captured by it.
One of the aspects to this film that works really well is the military aspect. This concept is most effective at the scene when Park Gang-du is captured by the military and is being tested on for a virus near the middle. If you look at the military's actions in the film from their side, their actions seem fair and understandable giving the circumstances. However, when you look at the film at the viewpoint of what Park Gang-du and his family have to go through, they look very threatening and evil. This works very good in the film because you can't decide whether to like or hate them. While most sci-fi monster movies view the military as a bunch of people who shoot at the main monster in the film with horrible aiming, this film makes you view them in a different and pretty original way.
Another aspect which sets it apart from most other monster movies is that the film is never over-the-top with the scenes featuring the monster. While many monster movies kill off people in over-the-top and overly-exaggerated ways which sound like an immature child would come up with them, the monster in this film behaves how you'd expect a mutated fish to act if this was real life. It only kills for food, the kills never look exaggerated, and the film always keeps it so the monster behaves realistically. Also, this film continues to succeed in this aspect at the ending. One of the biggest clichés of any monster movie is to defeat the monster by blowing it up. I'm not going to spoil how they eventually kill the monster, but it doesn't give me an underwhelmed feeling.
Also, some monster films have their monsters sound cheesy. Some of the cheesy monsters from films include "2-Headed Shark Attack", "Sharktopus", "Sand Sharks", and "Sharknado". Many monster films try to combine different animals with other animals or they try to give them unrealistic and stupid features. While the fish in this movie is giant and mutated, it never sounds as if a child would come up with it. It's pretty safe to say that this is much better than most other monster films produced in the last few decades.
Another great thing about this film is that it has the guts to kill off main characters that you wouldn't expect to die. Although director Bong Joon-ho handles this concept much, much better in "Snowpiercer" (2013), this film shows it well too. While Snowpiercer handles this concept perfectly in my opinion, this one introduces it to us before Bong Joon-ho is able to perfect it later. In this film, the deaths are as unexpected as they are brief, and before we are able to fully realize what's about to happen, the characters bite the dust.
My only major flaw with this movie lies with its final few minutes. Not the final fight scene before that one as that was greatly done, but the very final scene. Going back to Snowpiercer for a second, both of those films evoke somewhat similar moods with their ending. While Snowpiercer's ending may have worked since it handled ambiguity the right way, I don't think that this one works. My issue with it is that it doesn't show us enough of a conclusion for how all of the surviving characters turned out, what happened to them, and where they are living. It shows us a few minutes with a couple of them, and then it fades to black. I wished that the film was about 5-10 minutes longer. That would've been long enough to fill in the few remaining gaps. Since they were wanted by the military, I didn't know if the other people helping Park Gang-du got captured, if they were able to escape, or if something else happened to them. Also, I didn't know whether the military let them go or if they're still on the run. You could argue with this by saying that it's up to interpretation as to what happened to them, but the film didn't provide anything whatsoever for me to think of a logical explanation. However, this is a minor flaw, and I loved most other parts to this movie.
In conclusion, I'm really glad that I checked this one out. I still prefer Snowpiercer greatly over this one, but this film contributes its own originality and shining factors to the table. The military aspect, the removal of the common and annoying over-the-top feeling in many monster films, and how it's fearless in killing off main characters makes it stand out amongst most monster films. Long story short, it is a gigantic breath of fresh air for modern monster films. I was not disappointed at all when I watched it, and it delivered on the praise it has received from critics and the audience. If you're one of the countless number of people who are sick to death with most repetitive and bland monsterhorror films which are spit out way too often, try your absolute hardest to go out of your way to check this one out.
Review by Brian Berta from the Internet Movie Database.