Bong Joon-ho’s The Host (2006): An Underrated International Film


I am sure by now we all have some awareness of South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho, especially after the success of ‘Parasite’ (2019), for which he won four Academy Awards. I want to bring to your attention a lesser-known yet equally as good film from this director, ‘The Host’ (2006), a thriller/ comedy/ horror that wonderfully encapsulates Bong Joon-Ho as a director, and through its combination of genres creates a unique epic monster film that I can’t help but recommend.

It is perhaps a little strange to qualify this film as underrated, especially considering its record-breaking release in 2006, however, to many Western audiences this film has gone under the radar. Starring Kang Song-Ho, the film follows his character Park Gang-Doo and his family as they try to rescue his daughter Park Hyun-Seo (Go Ah-Sung) from the grasp of an amphibious monster. He is helped by his father, sister, and brother through their unifying devotion to Hyun-Seo, and their less-than-capable abilities of working as a team. The family are flawed both as individuals and as a collective, but this honest and raw depiction of disjointed family dynamics is what makes the emotionality of The Host. With this authentic depiction, we can relate to their struggles and hope that despite it all they can succeed in saving Hyun-Seo. It is a universally felt dynamic to have your family being disjointed, and it is remarkable that families can come together at all. In The Host even whilst acting as individuals, it is their willingness to bring a part of their family back that shows their commitment and love to each other, however much they wish to conceal it. This of course does not negate the characters from criticism, and the film doesn’t shy away from punishing the characters for their inherent incapabilities.

The film is poignant with its deep links with environmentalism, with the monster being a result of a chemical spill in the Han River, a plot point based on a real scandal from 2000. I would encourage you to not be put off by the thought of 2006 CGI for the monster, as considering the small budget of $10 million for the film, it’s impressive that it can still be watchable almost 20 years later. Horror is not just implemented through the visuals of the monster but through the fear of thinking it is coming, the fear from anticipation. Bong doesn’t rely heavily on jump scares for a fear factor, with his implementation of horror techniques feeling well balanced and carefully chosen for each moment. Even gore is not used extensively, yet when it is it makes the situation all the more frightening and harrowing for the characters, especially in scenes involving Hyun-Seo.

In typical Bong Joon-Ho fashion, the film satirically critiques the political and social climate of South Korea, as well as giving the impression of being anti-American, with a critique of their implicit involvement in the chemical spill. That being said no one is designated solely as a villain, not even the monster who kidnaps Gang-Doo’s daughter, and of course, our “heroes” don’t fit the standard though we come to love the Park family for all their eccentricity. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. It is perfect for those looking for something more than a typical, run-of-the-mill monster epic, and you will be more than pleased with the charismatic tone and dynamic sequences created by the directorial and authorial ability of Bong Joon-Ho, as well as the incredible harmony of the cast that brings you ‘The Host’.


About Author

Leave A Reply