The Host (Goemul) is a 2006 South Korean monster film, directed by Bong Joon-ho. This movie is a combination of a blockbuster plot and political commentary. Members of the cast are Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona and Go Ah-sung. The film sometimes deals with the implications of the American military presence in Korea.
Bong Joon-Ho has achieved dominance in the world of Korean cinema with only three films. He has met not only with exceptional commercial success but also critical acclaim in the film festival circuit, notably during the presentation of The Host in Cannes. I would like to give the sketch of an explanation for this with a few remarks about director Bong’s “exploitation of the unique and specific possibilities of the medium of cinema” (Panofsky).
This film is basically about a creature that is found in the Han River that one day starts eating any happy civilians who gets near the river. What’s good about this film is that the main characters aren’t a bunch of gun-toting patriots or a collection of stupid college students. Instead they are an odd-ball, clumsy, dysfunctional family. They’re all a bit weird and by no means heroic in any shape or form. The creature itself isn’t the stereotypical animalistic ferocious beast. True it does eat people but it is selective. Also, it seems to possess a sense of astuteness that is erratic. Even the creature’s visual aspect is different. It appears to be a giant walking fish with a kind of tentacle mouth and a long tail. This is a creature with a very little description one can able to mention really.
As I watched the film the first time, I thought it was a different take on the creature/monster film genre, enjoyable overall. What I was unaware of until reading explanations from the film that there was actually a deeper underlying meaning. The Host is actually a jab at American “imperialism” and capitalism taking over the world with the Earth as a casualty. At the start the film shows an American scientist ordering an assistant to tip highly toxic chemicals down the drain. The next thing we see is the creature gobbling up Koreans. Then later in the film the “Americans” take control of the whole situation alarming the public of a virus that is transmitted through contact with the creature. Then there is speculation that the Americans have no proof of the claim. Again this shows the fear mongering the US is infamous for, causing unnecessary panic or terror. I’d love to watch the film again so that I can pick up on more anti-capitalist themes. So the film’s not just a fun romp with a people hungry beast.
In technical front, this film’s sound design is very naturally done, with sense of realism. Even the creature sounds weren’t overly slimy or squelchy which is often the case with US monster varieties. The creature design CGI has been exceptionally good and it’s good to see the creature appear during the day for a change. The effects definitely were good enough not to take away from the film’s progression. Acting too was good, quirky and the characters were anything but cliché.
Following the success of the director Bong Joon-Ho’s earlier movie ‘Memories of Murder’, The Host was heavily anticipated as this was released on a record number of screens in South Korea on July 27, 2006. By the end of its run on November 8, 13 million tickets had been sold, making it the highest grossing South Korean film of all time. This movie is very popular in the DVD circuits and also cable television
As far as the awards, this has won Best Film at the Asian Film Awards and at the Blue Dragon Film Awards.
- Written & Directed by Bong Joon-ho
- Produced by Choi Yong-bae
- Written by Baek Chul-hyun
- Cast: Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona & Go Ah-sung
- Music by Lee Byung-woo
- Cinematography Kim Hyung-ku
- Editing by Kim Sun-min
- Release date: July 27, 2006
- Running time: 119 minutes
- Country: South Korea
- Language: Korean