The Host is a Korean monster flick which was released in 2006. After toxic chemicals are dumped into the Han river, it spawns an aquatic abomination which terrorizes the river bank. During its initial rampage it kidnaps the Park family’s youngest. This sets off the family’s journey to save their own. Indulging in my cholesterol leaden snacks, I dived into this highly acclaimed film.
My favorite component of the film was its character development. During the initial loss of their loved one, the family is seen sobbing and wailing over their loss, eventually collapsing onto the ground as a crumpled mess. However, throughout the journey the family is seen working in unison to save their loved one. This growth is especially apparent in the main protagonist Park Gang-Doo His half-blonde hair is unkempt and his appearance downright shaggy. His morals are questionable as he skims off his customer’s meals. He serves his daughter instant noodles, a meal devoid of beneficial nutrients. In essence he was a typical layabout. However, despite his jarring flaws, his one saving grace was his devotion to his daughter. Using his love for her as fuel for the journey, he overcomes impossible odds in order to save his daughter. Although his daughter is lost in the end, he has become a better man by the end of it, keeping a vigil over the river in case of another attack and properly caring for his newly adopted son.
While the film has many merits such as its fantastic use of special effects and array of colorful characters, much of its praise comes from its hidden messages. Many of which are critical of America. Donald, the second American character to appear, runs in to save the day during the monster’s attack. His exaggerated accent and compulsive urge to help is reflective of America’s tendency to interfere and impose their will. His female companion takes on the role of a stereotypical damsel in distress, screaming in the background without taking any real action. This parodies Hollywood’s conventional way of imposing roles onto genders, its “male gaze”. Males are essentially the seers and women for objectification. It is easy to also interpret the strong Korean female characters in this film as contraflow to such western paradigms.
Another thing that propagated the film’s success was the zeitgeist during the film’s launch. In 2000, US military had dumped toxic chemicals into the Han river. Antagonism against the US was still high at the time. The film’s premise was an exaggeration of what could have happened because of the US’s negligence. This hit home for many Koreans, spreading in popularity for many affected by the incident.
Overall, the film was thoroughly entertaining even without its heavy political background. I would rate it 8/10.
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