A Lesson On Pouring Formaldehyde Down the Drain: The Host
Most of the time I watch movies because someone else told me to watch them. Unless they’re disaster movies. Sad but true. Such was the case with The Host, which I watched with my SO because he read somewhere that it was good. Recommendations aside, it sat in our Instant Queue for quite awhile before getting pulled out of the audience.
Part comedy, part creature feature and part thriller, this movie really impressed me with how it blended genres seamlessly. The setup was fairly typical of a movie about a mutated monster created by toxic chemicals in the water. The movie is set in South Korea and is in Korean so there’s subtitle action going on except for the first scene. A white doctor working in the morgue who apparently has a real bug up his ass about dust instructs his South Korean assistant to dump about 100 bottles of formaldehyde down the drain because dust has collected on the bottles. When the assistant protests, because the sewers drain straight into the Han River, the doctor says simply “The Han River is broad. We need to be broad minded about this.” And tells him that’s an order. Cut to a year or so from then, a fisherman out in the river scoops up a little creature out of the water and shows it to his buddy. “How many tails does that thing have? It gives me the creeps.” He drops the cup and off it swims.
Several years later we come to the point that the little creature is now huge and rampaging through the coastline of the Han River, where our heros have a food stand. The main characters of the movie are a family consisting of a bronze medal winning female archer, a drunk unemployed college grad, a doltish ne’er-do-well and his 13 year old daughter, and her grandfather who is the father of the rest. When the creature comes ashore, the father of the girl, Park Gang-Du, grabs his daughter, Park Hyun-seo, and starts running. They fall, and he loses his grip then grabs what he thinks is her hand again and proceeds to flee. Turns out it’s not his kid he’s dragging, and the monster takes his daughter as it jumps back in the river. Hyun-seo is presumably dead.
But she’s not, because after the entire family is taken away to quarantine because the monster supposedly is carrying some virus and Gang-du got blood from it on him, Gang-du gets a cell phone call from his daughter in which she states she’s trapped in a sewer. Thus starts the main storyline, which is the family searching the sewers surrounding the Han River looking for their niece/daughter/granddaughter. A side plot develops involving the virus Gang-du supposedly has and the U.S. horning in and deciding South Korea isn’t handling the family’s escape well enough. External drama is applied via the authorities on their tail as the family desperately tries to find Hyun-seo before something worse happens to her.
I really liked this movie because the filmmakers were not afraid of an unhappy ending. Too many of these kinds of movies end with everyone intact and hugging at the end. Well, there’s some hugging at the end but the family is hardly intact. It’s about as realistic as a comedy/thriller monster movie is going to get in terms of likelihood of survival. It was also somewhat unpredictable as throughout the movie you’re not sure which family member is eventually going to eat it, or if they’re all going to eat it. And just as you think you’ve got the plot figured out, they throw a twist in — but not a “Lost” style twist or a M. Night Shyamalan twist that you either saw coming or wished you hadn’t. The monster design was pretty cool, too, as someone who is kind of geeky about that sort of thing.
The side plot involving the virus turns out to have a twist as well. With a name like “The Host” and the way they play up the effects of the virus in the beginning you assume there’s going to be some kind of possession going on. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s not what you think. Although if you’ve guessed the U.S. is up to something sketchy, I’ll tell you that you’re right.
If you have Instant View, definitely stick this movie in there. And don’t whine to me about subtitles if you don’t like them. Trust me, you won’t even notice you’re reading.