The Host – 2006

Director Bong Joon-ho
Screenplay Baek Chul-hyun, Bong Joon-ho
Starring Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona, Go Ah-sung, Scott Wilson

Bong’s rising star is often described with great enthusiasm towards The Host. While a nearly excellent film, it is not quite the masterpiece as it is often described.

The story is of a somewhat daft young man who runs a food stand with his father. The man, played by Song Kang-ho, has a daughter from a woman who mysteriously disappeared. He’s got a sister in a bow hunting competition. Something tells us this should be relevant by movie’s end.

Some bad elements are poured into the nearby waterway by some heinous actors and this creates a monster that has several menacing qualities. When it makes its appearance, it attacks the shore and several go missing. One of the missing is the daughter, and in the process Song’s Park Gang-du and his family are all taken into quarantine for the possibility that he may be host to a virus introduced by the monster.

The family escapes, then make a deal to buy arm and begin their search for the little girl, who called in with someone else’s phone. This leads to some organized chaos and an intriguing last act.

The effects are good for the time but especially for the tight budget constraints. The monster is at once sympathetic and menacing, even if it’s got the gleam of artificiality in its eye. The characters are often more goofy than sympathetic. There are some intensely genuine moments that show the groundwork of the master Bong has become in the last 14 years.

Song, my favorite actor of this years intensely well acted Oscar Winner, Parasite, has the brunt of the workload here. He is matched by his father figure Byun Hee-bong for his part. Over the course of the film, it becomes obvious that Song is an incredibly skilled creator of character.

The version I saw is hampered primarily due to the dubbing to English. One wonders what the hell one character is talking about when telling the story of a “calorie” deficiency, when the original text indicates that it is really a shortage of protein. It’s almost assured that Bong’s original script would stand out were it given the chance to flourish.

There is an interesting cameo by Paul Lazar (from Silence of the Lambs) who plays a doctor brought in to spill key plot points. His face, like that of the late Scott Wilson, is hard to mistake.

For horror aficionados, this is a good one, albeit lacking on a genuine menace for most of its run. We’re never entirely scared, sometimes on the verge of laughing. Sometimes though, it is quite moving. Not sure these are selling points for a classic, but it is definitely not a waste of one’s evening.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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