The Host is a South Korean film that contains a surprisingly strong sense of character development and even some emphasis on humor. Ultimately though, The Host will be quickly recognized as one of the most effective monster movies in decades. I'm not exaggerating; it is a shining example of a film that makes me wonder over and over again while watching it, why doesn't anyone make movies like this anymore? Evidently, South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder) does, and The Host quickly became the highest grossing South Korean film ever made.
The Host opens with an American ordering the removal of many gallons of formaldehyde. He orders his assistant to pour the toxic chemical into the drain, which will ultimately place it into the Han River. We are then introduced to the protagonists of the film, a South Korean family, two of which run a snack bar in front of the Han River. A giant creature comes out of the river and snatches up a little girl who is part of this family. The family grieves her loss while the government converges onto the scene and begins to indicate that the monster may be the cause of a new virus and that anyone who had contact with it should be quarantined. The family receives some indication that the little girl is alive and so they opt to make an effort to save her. Many scenes with the monster follow and it doesn't disappoint.
Monster movies of old invoke feelings of fear, excitement, action, and suspense; but have traditionally required more imagination than other genres. If there is mystery about the monster or we don't see it as much we quickly creep into the horror genre, but The Host does not do this. If there is no mystery we run the risk of seeing something we don't believe and that is when our imaginations must take over. The Host doesn't need its audience to do that either. It is shear madness and we are compelled to believe this is real. The drama assists tremendously and the comedic aspects serve to make the characters even more enjoyable while placing the film into a fairly convincing frame. The first time we see the monster is in broad daylight and it attacks crowds of people along the shore, only to submerge again. There is a moment in Jurassic Park where I felt an amazing sense of hope in great filmmaking combined with great technology. It is the first time we see the dinosaurs. Since that time I've grown a bit cynical toward technology's role in film, but The Host reinvigorates that hope. It is great action, great drama, great comedy, and great horror all mixed together.
The front of the box on the DVD indicates that The Host is on par with Jaws. As someone who believes Jaws to be among the greatest films ever made it would take time to concur with such a statement, but The Host is definitely worth viewing.