Doctor's Review of The Host
Awesome monster movie! Why is it awesome? Because this South Korean gem behaves like no monster movie I've ever seen by defying expectations repeatedly.
Toxic chemicals were illegally dumped into the Han river, and years later a hideously cool mutant fishy creature wreaks havoc on the nearby city in general, and one family in particular. Gang-du is a little slow and runs a food stand with his father. During one ordinary afternoon, the creature emerges suddenly from the river, and in the ensuing chaos Gang-du's daughter Hyun-seo is seized by the beast which plunges back into the water and disappears. When evidence surfaces that she may still be alive, it's up to Gang-du, his father, his unemployed college-educated brother, and his archery bronze-medalist sister to find her. Trouble is, Gang-du was exposed to the beast's blood and fear of a lethal virus causes him to be quarantined, so when they escape the medical facility they are all wanted by the police.
The family dynamics are really well presented, and part of what makes this movie special is that they don't have all the answers. In fact, they have very few answers - what would YOU do in similar extraordinary circumstances? Try your best, that's what, even if it's not the smartest course of action. These people behave more like real people would, and the trouble they get into and cause for themselves is sometimes a source of humor. The script is great with lots of little clever touches, like Gang-du saying they should record the TV bulletin of their escape so he could show Hyun-seo after they find her that daddy was on TV, or when Gang-du while pinned to the ground by army doctors keeps repeating the name of the Wonhyo bridge he must find and the doctors discuss the origin of the name while holding his thrashing limbs - "Wonhyo, wasn't he a saint?" "No, I think he was a monk." The cinematography is also excellent with an artistry rarely seen in the genre, resulting in many memorable sequences, a few of which include the initial monster sighting and then when it runs amok, its unique way of traversing a bridge, the escape attempt by Hyun-seo, and the final confrontation with an unlikely hero - and unanticipated tragedy.
The Host contains trace elements of Mimic, Outbreak, The Crazies, and War of the Worlds but is completely unlike any of those movies, and ultimately superior because of its exhilarating defiance of any formula - in fact, Spielberg could have learned some valuable new storytelling ideas for his WotW remake by emulating this family's bonding in the midst of a catastrophe. Then he too would have made an awesome movie.