The Host (Bong, 2006)

host

At first glance, The Host might seem like typical monster movie fare, easy to discount and define. However, Bong’s masterful film is not just about the physical beast that rises from the Han river slurping victims and dragging them back into the sewer, but also the monster inside modern day infrastructure and institutions which infect the public with misinformation and doubt. Throughout The Host, the police, hazard response, hospitals, the media, and the government, each fail in almost every respect responding to the beast’s appearance and rampage. Bong chooses to show this epic disaster through the eyes of the Park family, a middle class clan with three generations consisting of a grandfather, two sons and a daughter, and one adorable and brave granddaughter named Hyun-seo. When the youngest is taken by the beast, the rest set out to find her, often discovering their societal institutions standing in the way of any progress through the use of double speak and lies. It’s a stirring indictment geared at exposing the mistreatment of citizens on a mass level in favor of “politics as usual”, and The Host frames this discourse beautifully within the traditional monster movie genre. Unlike his American counterparts, Bong gives the viewer plenty of early looks at the beast, both up close and in fantastic wide shots, showing it’s range of motion and taste for human flesh. The blood and guts are complimented by personal devotion to a comedy of errors within the Park family, each suffering from the loss of human life but also through the indecision’s which have made them suffer before the beast appears. One moment in particular stands out, best signifying this impressive approach toward complex character development. In a moment of relief, the Park family return to their home (which is also a food stand on the bank of the Han) to eat, all but the missing Hyun-seo about to dig into cup of noodles. Bong dissolves to include Hyun-seo in the middle of the shot, a transcendent image of completeness and love missing from the portrait, the possibility she might not return filtering through the air. It’s a fantastic shot of a realistic and crucial human loss, and it exemplifies the ideas behind The Host‘s seemingly simple horror exterior. His film is brutal, funny, and has a genuine sense of humanity felt in the final, incredibly restrained sequence. Like Bong’s serial killer masterpiece Memories of Murder, The Host subverts genre in many refreshing ways, proving that his technical and visual skill equal his knowledge of film history. What an amazing thought – a mainstream director with palpable ideas and the clout to test them in the dangerous commercial waters of the West. American “autuers”, take note.

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