Gwoemul 괴물 (The Host)

Imagine, if you will, Wes Anderson and Ridley Scott getting together to make a monster movie. That’s the Host. It’s really like they took all of the quirky character bits from Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums and mashed it up with Alien and tossed it into the middle of Seoul. The monster bits should be pretty obvious as one peek at the creature will tell you it’s very Alien-like, the Wes Andersonisms are maybe a little less apparent but for me it was an almost immediate connection.

What the hell am I talking about, you ask? Well, the film features a quirky, dysfunctional family at its core- a complete screw up, his precocious young daughter, his crazy grandfather, his obnoxious brother and his sister, a failed Olympic archer who runs around the whole film in a track suit carrying a compound bow. Call me crazy, but I see anyone in a track suit and I think Wes Anderson. Toss in the compound bow and it’s pure Anderson formula (slightly funny costume + a slightly funny prop = good times.) Seriously, look at the photo posted with this article- am I nuts?

Don’t answer that.

Now obviously Anderson doesn’t have a patent on quirky humor and dysfunctional characters (or track suits), but that’s the connection I made and I’m sticking with it- I’m crazy like that. Seriously, the comparison could work just as well with the characters in a Takashi Miike film (more like Happiness of the Katakuris than Ichi the Killer, certainly) or a Takeshi Kitano film (think something like Sonatine.) They’re quirky I tell you.

Anyway, the point is (and I really do have a point) the blend of the goofy characters with the monster hi-jinks is pure fun. How could it not be? It’s just a blast from start to finish. From the initial scene of the monster running rampant on the banks of the Han through the bizarro escape sequences to the explosive finale, it’s a brilliant blend of adrenaline, humor and humanity that simply works. The world needs more movies like this.

Kudos to Bong Joon-ho and his team for a really fantastic achievement.

Amazingly, this film is actually based on a true story. In 2001, Albert McFarland, a civilian employee of the U.S. military command, ordered gallons of formaldehyde dumped into the Han River. The Han runs through the center of Seoul, one of the world’s largest cities and provides drinking water for many of it’s 12,000,000 inhabitants. Thankfully the formaldehyde was no longer toxic when it reached the river, so no mutant beasts were created by the formaldehyde in real life, but gladly for the movie going public the fictionalized Seoul of The Host wasn’t so lucky.

This controversial event understandably caused quite a stir in South Korea and led to a long legal odyssey trying to bring Mr. McFarland to justice. this controversy led to some anti-American sentiment there and that sentiment continues through to the film where the 1a bad guys (behind the monster itself) are the US government and military. It’s not the worst thing in the world of course, and it’s not as anti-American as something like Battle Royale II, it’s just the sort of thing folks should maybe be aware of going in- although I bet the anti-American sentiment will be toned down for the film’s stateside release.

This article was originally published on in 2007 (I think.)