South Korea can make some pretty good movies and TV shows. Their war movies are second to none, in my opinion. Their horror movies are right up there with Japanese horror. One of the best of the K-horror genre is The Host from 2006.
The movie starts with an evil, white American doctor stationed in South Korea ordering one of his local helpers to pour formaldehyde down a drain that leads to the Han river. This has some consequences. Years pass and local fishermen start finding some strange things coming out of their catch before hopping back into the water.
A few more years pass, and we are introduced to a family who runs a snack bar at the local park by the river. The main cast consists of Park Gang-du, a slow-witted man with a daughter who lives with Park’s father. The father owns the snack bar. His brother is a former political activist and a drunk. His sister competes at an Olympic level in archery.
On a day that goes from bad to worse, a monster comes out of the river and starts rampaging through the area, killing several people and swallowing several more to be saved for later meals. Park’s daughter is one of the victims, swallowed and taken back to the creature’s lair.
We then get a helluva yarn about the Park and his family tracking down the monster to save Park’s daughter. They realise she is still alive when she manages to get enough signal on her cell phone to make a call for help.
I’d like to tell you more about it, but it would ruin it for you. This movie is one of the best creature features ever made. Its political message may be as subtle as a cavalry regiment at full charge, but the characters are very likable and you get invested in them and their lives.
The movie was only the third feature-length production by Bong Joon-ho. Following Barking Dogs Never Bite and Memories of Murder, the film was given a ₩10 billion budget. At the time this was just over US$10 million, which was huge in the context of the Korean movie industry back then.
It was reportedly a hard set. Filming near the real sewers next to the Han River the cast and crew needed tetanus inoculations. When sewage water froze it had to be broken up and melted.
The creature was designed by Chin Wei-chen, the modeling was done by New Zealand-based Weta Workshop and the animatronics were by John Cox’s creature Workshop.
The movie is excellent, and I give it my highest recommendation.