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The Host

It is lurking behind you. 

Year: 2006 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from The Host

Director: Joon-ho Bong

Starring: Kang-ho Song, Hie-bong Byeon, Hae-il Park, Du-na Bae

The Host is best described as a modern B-movie. It is a technically accomplished monster flick, such as Guillermo Del Toro's Mimic and others the West had success with in the 90s. In The Host the threat is a mutant fish reptile monster which emerges from the Han River several years after its creation from toxic chemicals. The film is shot from the perspective of the Park family, comprising of the grandfather food store owner, store helper son Kang-du, college graduate son Hie Bong, national archery champion daughter Nam-ju and schoolgirl granddaughter Hyun-seo. When the monster attacks at the start of the film, Kang-du (the main hero) is directly involved in the action, helping people trapped in a steel container and then trying to distract the monster with a lamppost. Despite his best efforts, Kang-du's daughter Hyun-seo is captured by the creature and the rest of the film tracks the family's attempts to rescue her from the monster's lair, deep within the sewer system of the Han River.

The strength of The Host is that it does not take itself too seriously. The tragedy of the daughter's abduction is peppered with humour, most notably in a scene which turns from serious sorrow to total farce with the whole grieving family squirming around on the floor while newspaper reporters film the spectacle. The action scenes are sparse but exciting, the film being book-ended by the impressive introduction of the monster and the final showdown between the three siblings and the monster itself, where, of course, Nam-ju's archery skills play a key role.

The characters are presented with emotion and humour, each bringing something different to the film: Kang-du the silly but brave clown, Nam-ju the wily sportswoman, Hie bong the guerrilla student disillusioned by job hunting, Nam-il the wise patriarch, and Hyun-seo the helpless schoolgirl, drawing bravery in the face of adversity. The Host is a film that has emotion, humour, excitement and a deeper political message about South Korea's expression of character in a world dominated by larger powers (the US government muscle in part way through the movie to take control of handling the monster threat). It is a thrilling ride and a great film to ease anyone into new Asian cinema.

James Miles

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Screenings of this film:

2006/2007 Spring Term (35mm)