The movie concerns a monster kidnapping a man's daughter, and his attempts to rescue her. According to the director, his inspiration came from a local article about a deformed fish with an S-shaped spine caught in Han River. The Host had set a new Korean box office record by reaching 10 million tickets in just 21 days. In addition, it was ranked one of the top films of 2007 on Metacritic with a score of 85. In November 2008, it was announced that Universal Studios would be remaking The Host.
In late 2000, an American military pathologist commands a reluctant Korean assistant to violate protocol by dumping over 200 bottles of formaldehyde down a drain leading into the Han River. Over the next few years, there are sightings of a strange amphibious creature in the waterway, and the fish in the Han River are dying off because of water pollution. A suicidal businessman, just before jumping off a bridge into the river, sees something dark moving under the surface of the water.
Six years later, in Seoul, Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) is a seemingly slow-witted man who runs a small snack-bar with his father, Hee-bong (Byun Hee-bong). Also with him is his daughter, Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung), his sister, Nam-joo (Bae Doona), a national medalist archer, and his brother, Nam-il (Park Hae-il), a heavy drinking unemployed college graduate and former political activist. While Gang-du is delivering food to some customers, he sees a crowd along the Han River. They witness a huge creature hanging from the Wonhyo Bridge, which then jumps into the water. At first, it seems as though the creature has swum away, encouraging the public to bait it back with food. Moments later, the creature rises out of the river and runs amok. After the creature causes chaos and kills a number of people, Gang-du and an American man attempt to kill the creature with a metal pole. They succeed only in angering it; the American is seriously injured, and the creature starts pursuing Gang-du. Gang-du grabs the hand of a girl whom he believes to be Hyun-seo and starts to flee. When he realizes he isn't holding Hyun-seo, he turns to see the creature running towards her. The creature then snatches Hyun-seo and dives back into the river. During a mass funeral for the victims of the creature, government
representatives and the American military arrive and forcefully quarantine all those who have been in direct contact with the creature, including Gang-du and his family. The Korean government announces that the creature is not only a direct danger, but also the host of a deadly, unknown virus as the American (who lost an arm to the creature) is discovered to be infected with it.
Gang-du is quarantined at a hospital, where he receives a phone call from Hyun-seo, who is not dead but trapped somewhere in the sewers by the creature. She is cut off when her phone battery runs out. Gang-du tries to explain this to others, but his protests go ignored by all except his family. The four of them decide to escape the hospital to track down Hyun-seo. Hee-bong buys a truck, weapons, and a map of the sewers, so they are prepared for the search.
Meanwhile two brothers, Se-jin and Se-joo, are searching for food when they are attacked by the creature. They attempt to flee but are both swallowed by the creature. It returns to the sewers where it regurgitates them, with only Se-Joo coming out alive. Hyun-seo sees that Se-Joo is alive and they both hide out of sight from the creature.
While Gang-Du and his family are eating and talking at their snack bar they are attacked by the creature. They fire at it, but quickly run out of ammunition. Gang-du, believing he has a shell left in his shotgun, gives his gun to his father, at his request, so that he can attempt to hold off the creature, buying his family some time to escape. As Hee-bong is about to fire, Gang-du realizes he has miscounted his shots, and that his shotgun is empty. Hee-bong is attacked and killed by the creature. Gang-du runs back to his father, but the Army and scientists arrive and capture Gang-du. Nam-il and Nam-joo are able to hide but are separated from each other while Gang-Du is taken away, screaming in agony over his father's death.
Nam-il attempts to get help tracing the location of Hyun-seo's phone call from a friend, who tells him that the government has placed a bounty on his and his family's heads. The friend then betrays Nam-il for the bounty, but Nam-il manages to obtain Hyun-seo's general location from cell phone records, evade capture by the police and flee the scene. He texts the location to Nam-joo and Gang-du.
As Nam-joo is searching through the sewers, she comes across the creature and tries to attack it with her bow. She hesitates to take a shot, believing she will miss, and the creature knocks her into a hole, knocking her unconscious. The creature, unable to reach her in the hole, continues running through the sewers.
After being placed in a special medical facility, Gang-du is interrogated by two scientists. Interpreting his ravings about his still-alive daughter as a product of infection by the virus, they decide to operate on his brain in an effort to extract a sample—a procedure they deem necessary as until now they have found no actual trace of any virus. After the operation, however, Gang-du manages to break free. Taking one of the nurses hostage with a syringe of his supposedly infected blood, he escapes to continue his search for his daughter.
Meanwhile, Nam-il wakes up the next morning with a homeless man (Yoon Je-moon) sitting next to him, who knows about the quarantine but decided to stay put. After talking about the creature and Nam-il's situation, they join together to find Hyun-seo and kill the creature.
Back in the sewers, while the creature is sleeping, Hyun-seo ties together clothes from the bodies of the dead to create a rope. She successfully latches the makeshift rope to the top of the drain but while she attempts to jump up to the rope she is caught by the creature. The creature, still feigning sleep, gently puts Hyun-seo back on the ground. Terrified, Hyun-seo slowly attempts to hide but the creature leaps at her and Se-joo and swallows them both.
The government announces a plan to release a harmful chemical called Agent Yellow into the river and the surrounding area, hoping it will kill the creature. The population around Han River is devastated and organize a protest against this.
Gang-du finally finds the location in the sewers where the creature had kept Hyun-seo, but the creature and Hyun-seo are not there. As Gang-du climbs down into the sewer the monster passes over him. He sees Hyun-seo's arm hanging out of the creature's mouth and chases after it. As Gang-du is running after the creature he comes across Nam-joo and they go after it together as it heads toward the protest. As Nam-il and the homeless man arrive at the protest, and as the creature attacks, Agent Yellow is released. Agent Yellow appears to hurt the creature but doesn't kill it. As the creature is lying on the ground, Gang-du sees Hyun-seo in its mouth. He pulls her and Se-joo out, but Hyun-seo is revealed to have died clutching Se-joo, who is still alive.
In a fit of rage, Gang-du attacks the creature with a metal pole but is knocked to the ground. Nam-il and the homeless man come to Gang-du's aid. While Nam-il throws Molotov cocktails at the creature, the homeless man climbs to a platform above the creature and pours petrol onto it. But as Nam-il goes to throw his last bottle to ignite the creature, he drops it. Nam-joo picks up the flaming cloth from the bottle with one of her arrows and fires it at the creature, hitting it in its eye. The creature bursts into flames and attempts to run to the Han river. Gang-du appears from behind one of the bridges pillars, with the metal pole in hand, and impales the creature in its mouth, finally killing it. As Nam-il and Nam-joo hold Hyun-seo, mourning her death, Gang-du walks over to Se-joo and picks him up, taking him to safety.
Time passes and Gang-du is living with Se-joo in his food stand. At night, Gang-du believes he sees something in the distance, picks up a shotgun, but then realizes it was nothing. Gang-du and Se-joo sit down to have something to eat, while a news broadcast about the monster attack plays on the TV. The film ends with Se-joo asking Gang-du to turn the TV off so they can concentrate on eating.
- Song Kang-ho as Park Gang-du
- Byun Hee-bong as Park Hee-bong
- Park Hae-il as Park Nam-il
- Bae Doona as Park Nam-joo
- Go Ah-sung as Park Hyun-seo
- Oh Dal-su as Voice of the monster
- Lee Jae-eung as Se-jin
- Lee Dong-ho as Se-joo
- Yoon Je-moon as The homeless man
- Yim Pil-sung as Nam-il's senior, "Fat Guevara"
- Kim Roi-ha as Yellow 1 (in the funeral)
- Park No-sik as The inquiry officer
- Go Soo-hee as The hostage nurse
- David Joseph Anselmo as Donald
- Scott Wilson as U.S. Military doctor
- Paul Lazar as American doctor
- Brian Lee as Young Korean doctor
The film was the third feature-length film directed by Bong Joon-ho. Following the positive reaction to the director's debut, Barking Dogs Never Bite, coupled with the critical acclaim and box-office success of his previous work, Memories of Murder, the film was given a generous production budget of around ₩10 billion (just over US$10 million), huge by local industry standards.
Some of the filming took place in the real sewers near the Han River, rather than on a set. The stars and crew were inoculated against tetanus by the medical officer. During filming, the crew had to deal with the effects of changes in weather and ambient temperature. This including the sewage water freezing in cold temperatures, so that it had to be broken up and melted; and during hot and windy periods, the water evaporated and the silt turned to dust, which blew around in the breeze and into the faces of the crew.
Special effects Edit
The director had to work around the budget-imposed restrictions, especially when it came to special effects. The creature was designed by Chin Wei-chen, the modeling was done by New Zealand-based Weta Workshop and the animatronics were by John Cox's creature Workshop. The CGI for the film was done by The Orphanage, which also did some of the visual effects in The Day After Tomorrow. The monster was designed with some specific parameters in mind. According to the director himself the inspiration came from a local article about a deformed fish with an S-shaped spine caught in the Han River. Therefore, the director's wishes were for it to look like an actual mutated fish-like creature, rather than have a more fantastical design. In the opening scenes of the film, two fishermen presumably encounter the creature whilst it is still small enough to fit in one of their cups; suggestive of its humble, more realistic origins. The monster also exhibits frontal limbs similar to amphibians' legs. This element of its design seems to have been more a choice of functionality on the designers' part as the monster needed to be able to run and perform certain acrobatic movements during the film. For a genre film monster, the creature's size is rather small, only about the size of a truck. Also unlike in many other monster-themed films, the creature is fully visible from early on in the film, sometimes for large stretches of time and even in broad daylight, which earned the film some critical praise.
The Host premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2006 and was released nationally in South Korea on July 27, 2006. Having been heavily hyped and featuring one of the most popular leading actors in the country, Song Kang-ho, the film was released on a record number of screens and made the South Korean record books with its box office performance during its opening weekend. The 2.63 million admissions and US$17.2 million box office revenue easily beat the previous records set by Typhoon. The film reached six million viewers on August 6, 2006. In early September the film became South Korea's all time box office leader, selling more than 12.3 million tickets in just over a month in a country of 48.5 million. By the end of its run on November 8, the viewing figures came in at 13,019,740.
The film was released theatrically in Australia on August 17, 2006. During the first half of September 2006, it premiered in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong. It received a theatrical release in the United Kingdom on November 10, 2006. This was its first official release outside of film festivals, and outside Asia and Australia. Its American release was March 9, 2007. It was or is planned to be released in several other countries; among them are France, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, and Spain. The Host received screenings on several film festivals. In addition to its opening in Cannes, among the most prominent were the Toronto, Tokyo and New York film festivals. The film swept Korea's Blue Dragon Awards : The Host received five awards, Go Ah-sung took Best New Actress and Byun Hee-bong was awarded as Best Supporting Actor.
The French film magazine Cahiers du cinéma ranked the film as 3rd place in its list of best films of the year 2006 and 4th for the 2000-2009 decade. The Japanese film magazine Kinema Junpo selected it as one of the top 10 best foreign films of the year 2006. (Flags of Our Fathers won the best foreign film of the year 2006.) With a limited American release starting March 11, 2007, The Host received critical acclaim, with a 93% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In addition, it was ranked one of the top films of 2007 on Metacritic with a score of 85 out of 100. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote "The Host is a loopy, feverishly imaginative genre hybrid about the demons that haunt us from without and within." The filmmaker Quentin Tarantino included it in his list of top 20 films released since 1992 (the year he became a director). The film was also listed at #81 on Empire Magazine's list of The 100 Best Films of World Cinema.
- The Host at the Internet Movie Database
- The Host at AllMovie
- The Host at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Host at Wikipedia
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