Starring Song Kang-ho. In Korean with English subtitles.
Now I realize that this might sound like faint praise.
Under ordinary circumstances, announcing the release of the greatest mutant-monster movie ever has all the gravitas of declaring the arrival of the world's best pirate epic or boob-friendly porno flick”¦ But not this time. As film-festival audiences will doubtless recall, Bong Joon-Ho's best-known work prior to this was Memories of Murder , the most dramatically convincing polemic against torture ever lensed. Sure, his features are fast-paced and entertaining as hell, but that doesn't mean their subtexts aren't as serious as the next guy's.
In the case of The Host , the premise is way more credible than that of the average horror movie: the U.S. military really did dump toxic waste into Seoul's Han River about seven years ago. To date, no amphibious monsters have started snacking on bipedal South Korean "sushi", but that doesn't mean awful consequences haven't emerged from this wanton act of neocolonial pollution.
Facing down Seoul's homegrown Godzilla is the dysfunctional Park family. Park Gang-Du (Song Kang-ho), a none-too-bright food-stall operator, is partially responsible for the abduction of his daughter (Ko Ah-sung) by the beast that lives beneath the Han's slimy bridges. Gang-Du's father (Byeon Hie-bong) and contemptuous brother (Park Hae-il) are only slightly better suited to doing battle with chemically crafted creatures, and even the one relative you would have thought he could count on, his championship-archer sister (Bae Du-na), has an unfortunate tendency to freeze at the worst possible moment.
Nevertheless, they do their best, even though their best might well not be good enough.
Somewhat surprisingly, The Host is light on gore (although the computer-generated images are first-rate). The film is also uncommonly class-conscious, with the fate of an endangered street urchin making an important subplot. Best of all, the film's satirical points about South Korea's overdependence on the United States are delightfully witty without losing an ounce of vitriol.
Yes, folks, it might sound strange but it's true. The Host really is the thinking person's mutant-monster movie.