THE HOST let’s the fish out of the net practically right off the bat in this well-reviewed 2006 sci-fi/thriller hit from South Korea, with its yucksome truck-sized monster squeeging off the Wonhyo Bridge over the Han River and whopping ashore for a nifty rampage through agog Seoul crowds, trampling and chomping select people-morsels like so many stir-fried squid appetizers. Then, the rest of the plot gets in the way, and zzzz…
Co-writing with Baek Chul-hyun, director Bong Joon-ho swipes a bitter backhand at the clumsy US military, thoughtless spawner of the creature, after dumping a large quantity of toxic chemicals into the river. In the horror-show of real, that happened in fact in 2000, when one of their lackeys poured 20 gallons of formaldehyde into the Han, water source for 12,000,000 people. Rack up another Freedom Bummer for Uncle Scam. *
Fair enough for a plot kickstart, but as quickly as the formaldafish gets our attention the plot shifts into low-gear with a family’s trial-by-goop as they search the sewers to find their daughter, stowed there by the monster for later leisurely consumption. The ‘Gwoemul’ is an impressively gross creation, but the family shenanigans are lame, the jokes thump flat and further plot complications just drag things out to 119 minutes.
Most critics wildly applauded, and the $11,000,000 film—lavishly done by the native industry’s standards—was literally a monster hit in Korea: over a quarter of the total population paid to see it, and eventual worldwide take came to $89,400,000.
With Song Kang-ho (Snowpiercer), Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doo-na (Air Doll), Go Ah-sung and old reliable Scott Wilson.
* The US military is the planet’s biggest single source of toxic pollution.