Hungry ‘Host’ Unsettles a City

At first glance, the hundreds of promotional posters at UC Irvine advertising the screening of ‘The Host’ look as if the film would be nothing more than a cheesy spoof of previous films like ‘King Kong’ or ‘Godzilla.’ However, it becomes apparent that this is not your average monster flick.
The intense movie has great special effects, but it also makes you laugh due to the constant hilarity that ensues. It is obvious that director Bong Joon-Ho wanted to make a movie with a double-meaning. Outwardly, the film portrays a scary monster. On the flip side, it has underlying themes of political oppression, as a way of commenting on the Korean government.
‘The Host’ opens to two men in a rundown science laboratory filled with thousands of dusty brown bottles. One of the men commands the other to pour all of the bottles, which contain formaldehyde, down the sinks. The back and forth about the consequences of doing so reveals the toxic chemical will go directly into the Han River.
Despite the knowledge of what it might do to the water system, he reminds the subordinate of his authority and makes him empty the bottles down the drains. Later, two men fishing in the Han River discover a small, unknown creature in the water. The scene turns ominous when they describe how many tails the monster has and how its presence ‘makes your skin crawl.’ From there that small creature turns into a much larger one and terrorizes a town by running around and snatching people up by their heads.
The government intervenes to protect the town by sending in the military. According their official orders, any citizen who makes contact with the formaldehyde-based creature must be hospitalized immediately because the monster carries a deadly virus.
The small family that the movie is based around is included in this hospitalization because the father, Gang-Du, is sprayed by the monster’s blood. After their escape, they begin their adventurous quest to find their young daughter that has been captured by the monster and is being kept underground in a sewer.
The film depicts the government’s disregard for small, working-class families. Frustration arises from watching the government’s lack of care for its citizens problems, as well as the lack of information and communication.
Though this foreign film unfortunately fell under the mainstream radar, director Joon-Ho’s masterpiece is a must watch. With great special effects, intense and foreboding scenes and political commentary, this film will be palatable not only to indie film fans, but also to those looking for a good monster movie.