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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

The Host (2006)


Think about it next time you decide to take a swim in a public river.

A semi-dysfunctional family reunites in the worst possible way, when one of their own, Hyun-seo (A-sung Ko), gets captured and presumably killed by a mysterious monster. The family is clearly in a bit of a crisis, constantly fighting, crying, drinking and blaming one another for this travesty, all before the government takes them in and starts doing test, after test, after test on each and everyone of them. Are they infected with anything all that serious? We don’t know. But, does it matter? Not really. The government thinks that they are infected, so therefore, they must be. However, late one night, the father of the little girl, Gang-du (Kang-ho Song), gets a call and wouldn’t you know it! It ends up being her! From there on out, Gang-du and the rest of his family holds out total hope that she’s alive and just waiting for them to rescue her. The only problem is that they have to find out where she’s at and get her, all while sneaking past the government as well. Which, as some of you may know, is not an easy task.

While this may sound all familiar to most of you beings out there who have been brought up on monster movies such as Godzilla, or King Kong, or even most recently, Pacific Rim, don’t stop there with that thought and automatically get turned-off. Because, while the Host may be, in fact, a “monster movie”, it’s not that kind of monster movie that just limits itself to shrieks, creeps, gore, scares and violence. Nope, there’s a little bit more to this one.

Yeah, don't look behind yourself if you can help it.

Yeah, don’t look behind yourself if you can help it.

See, what’s so neat about the Host is that it’s several different genres, all rolled up, and piled into one big mix of ideas, themes, and sequences that don’t always work perfectly together, but still keep you interested. And honestly, that’s all you’re going to need with any monster movie, let alone this one in particular.

Because sure, we get to see the monster wreck all sorts of havoc on large groups of people, chomp some up for a little breakfast, a little dinner, and a little midnight snack, and heck, we even get to see it chase people down, but it’s not our central focus. Sure, the monster is there and definitely an asset to why this story was made in the first place, but the real main focus here is this family that always remains fascinating. That’s definitely impressive too, because automatically, as soon as we’re introduced to each and every one of these family members, it automatically feels like we’re in for a whole slew of clichés that almost never excite.

The older brother who is a total slacker, constantly falling down everywhere he goes and dozing off whenever he feels like doing so; the younger brother who went to college and everything, but doesn’t have a job and is more interested in causing trouble, then getting his shit together; the sister, who is a professional archer, and definitely the smarter of the bunch; and the father of the three, who is clearly the sweetest, most endearing figure of all that has every bit of faith in his kids that they’ll do the best that they can do, yet, still holds his own reservations as well. If this was a stripped-down, intimate, almost play-like drama, I’d probably be gripped from beginning to end; but the fact that it’s spliced together with something that resembles an action movie, is almost even better.

Although there is the occasional slip-up in its pace, co-writer/director Joon-ho Bong definitely doesn’t lose his head on bogging us down with detail, after detail, after detail that we need to know about these family members and their history together; we get plenty of background info to understand their personalities, so that when they do split up and are on their own for this adventure of sorts, it never gets boring. Even if the dramatic scenes themselves do slow things down terribly, it’s still a nice refresher to get a movie in which the human-characters are treated on a first-grade basis, whereas the monster itself (aka, the real spectacle that most come rushing out the floodgates to see), is simply second.

It also helps that the cast is pretty fine too, with each and everyone doing their job to make the best impression. However, I think the one who runs away with this movie alone is Kang-ho Song, who is basically our main protagonist – or if you want to get really professional about it, our flawed hero for the two-hours. What’s so neat about Song and what he does is that while we’re introduced to his character in a not-so lovely way, overtime, we get to see that he’s a lot smarter and likable than he initially lets off. He’s a total and complete slacker that, at first, we see sleeping on his job while his dad does all the work, but once that all changes and shit gets real, real quick, then the strength of Song’s ability as an actor comes out and we get a character that we can root for, even if he does do some bone-headed things along the way.

Strange way to fish. It is Korea after all though!

Strange way to fish. It is South Korea after all though!

But that only makes him more human, hence why it’s so much easy to sympathize with him and just want the best for him, his family, and those that he loves when all is said and done. Case closed.

Anyway though, like I stated before though, that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of monster action, it’s just that there’s more to this movie than just that. I appreciated that aspect, and I was also glad to see Bong go out of his way and throw a little satire into the proceedings as well. What I mean is that the story itself is about how the government is more concerned with this virus, who has it, and its chances of breaking out (even if there is one), than actually going out there and destroying the thing that’s possibly causing this virus in the first place. You can get a clear idea that Bong wants to evoke feelings of rebellion and strictly just not fully trusting your government with everything that they do (especially once those slimy Americans get involved!), which makes the movie feel more heightened with emotion that doesn’t just start and end with the family-dynamic.

Basically, what I’m trying to get across is that you can have a fun, exciting and crowd-pleasing monster movie, but if you give us a little something more, then I have no problems whatsoever. More, especially in this case, is always better.

Consensus: While at two full hours, the Host can feel exceptionally long during its more laid-back moments, there’s still a creative, energetic force behind that has it constantly pushing for being more than just a typical, by-the-numbers monster movie, even if it does settle for that at the end.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Basically my whole family during the series finale of Six Feet Under.

Basically my whole family during the series finale of Six Feet Under.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

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26 responses to “The Host (2006)

  1. ninvoid99 June 30, 2014 at 6:24 am

    One of the best monster films I had ever seen. Makes me excited for Snowpiercer in its original cut.

  2. Nostra June 30, 2014 at 6:30 am

    Loved this film and nice to see a high score. Loved the atmosphere and agree this is a couple of movies rolled into one.

    btw, did you see the email I sent you? Let me know if you are interested to join in.

  3. Mark V. June 30, 2014 at 6:49 am

    Great review, and glad you loved it. The South Korean film industry needs more love.

  4. numb3r5s June 30, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Only 8 out of 10?

    I think you waffled a bit on the Monster and towards the end, it looks like you failed to grasp the whole problem the family has trying to hide from the authorities and the rest of the country as the authorities puts them on show. While at it’s heart it is both a family drama of sorts and a Monster Movie with elements of comedy, it is also about greed (from the Americans mainly) and running and not stopping because the family have been made an enemy of the state because of that greed and as such is more incline with how important family is in those situations.

    Good review nonetheless, you have only just seen it?

    • CMrok93 June 30, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      Well, to be honest, I didn’t want to say why the family was on the run and all because that would be somewhat spoiling it. And yes, I have only seen it once. Thanks!

      • numb3r5s July 1, 2014 at 1:36 pm

        While it is true that you don’t want to spoil it for other audiences, I consider it a somewhat safe gamble to mention almost everything as the whole internet is filled with spoiler alerts.

        Apologies for any unintended sarcasm from either this comment or my previous one.

  5. Cameron Richardson June 30, 2014 at 10:40 am

    I saw this back when it was released over here and loved it. It’s long overdue a revisit I feel. Great review!

  6. James the Movie Reviewer June 30, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Haha, good timing. I just watched the movie for the first time the other day, and I have to say that I am impressed. Kang-ho Song continues to impress me with his mix of humor and drama in his roles though.

    -James

  7. Roy Sexton (Reel Roy Reviews) June 30, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    I love your reviews. So crisp and so funny. I particularly love it when you go back in time to some zany movie like this one.

    >

  8. Joseph@thecinemamonster June 30, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Need to give this a re-watch soon! Excellent post, Dan! One of the best monster flicks ever made, political, compelling, and utterly entertaining :).

  9. Victor De Leon June 30, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    This movie rules. Don’t know why I never got around to reviewing it. Nice work, Dan ;)

  10. Parlor of Horror June 30, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    When I first started watching this I didn’t understand what kind of monster movie this was…until I realized it was not a monster movie – it was a movie with a monster in it, lol. This is another great film from the east that deals with family matters in a unique way – nice review.

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  12. CinemaClown June 30, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Although the CGI sucked, it was heartwarming to see the story triumph over the monster design. And it breaks so many of its genre conventions as well, one example being not taking the less-is-more approach despite a not very convincing VFX work. Brave, bold & daring, this is an amazing monster film by an amazingly talented director. Brilliant review, Dan.

  13. Tom June 30, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Good review Dan, I still need to see this and now I can’t wait. I always got this confused with the new version, which looks like a big pile of poop.

  14. whitdenton98 July 1, 2014 at 2:25 am

    Heard this was good. Solid review Dan!

  15. Three Rows Back July 1, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Now this is a monster movie! Nicely done.

  16. Jim Turnbull July 1, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Great review! One of my favourite ever monster movies. Strikes the balance between political allegories and mutant mayhem really well. Glad to see even more love for it!

  17. Alex Withrow (@shiftingPersona) July 3, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Great review, Dan. I really do love this movie, arguably my favorite film to come out of the Korean New Wave. You’re so right, there’s nothing typical or phoned-in about this flick.

  18. jimmygils July 17, 2014 at 6:49 am

    You are correct, this is one amazing unique large monster film. I cough it up to cultural differences towards your feeling of long drawn out scenes. Those scenes really capture the Korean culture and humor such as fathers unnoticed long monologue about the goodness of the oldest son. If you had slanted eyes, I think you would have given this a 10/10 ;-)

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