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The Host (Gwoemul, as it's known in its home country) is a critically-acclaimed 2006 film by Bong Joon-ho, combining aspects of the Kaiju movie, the political satire, and the family dramedy. It absolutely swept the Blue Dragon Awards and the 1st Asian Film Awards. It's also one of Quentin Tarantino's favourite movies of recent times.
After an American military pathologist stationed in Korea dumps over 100 bottles of formaldehyde down the drain (this part really happened and was a big scandal in the newspapers, although a company dumping MILLIONS of liters into the same river went largely unnoticed as it was done by a local company and not the Americans), a mutated, twenty-foot tadpole creature shows up on a beach and eats a bunch of people before disappearing (this part didn't really happen).
The main character, Park Gang-Du, is the father of one of the people who was eaten, a thirteen year-old girl named Hyun-seo. He's also more than a bit of a screw-up, and not a very good father, though extremely loving. After her funeral, at which he and his father, Hee-bong, are reunited with political activist brother Nam-il and Olympic bronze medalist archer sister Nam-joo, everyone who was present at the attack is required to go to the hospital; the Korean government, under pressure from the Americans, speculate that the creature may be carrying some hideous new disease, and they want to make sure it's contained. On his first night in the hospital, however, Gang-du's cellphone starts ringing: it's Hyun-seo, who is not dead. The creature regurgitated her out into a hole in the sewer, where it appears to be saving her for later.
After the authorities don't believe him, Gang-du and his entire family break out of the hospital to find Hyun-seo. After it comes out, though, that Gang-du had some of the creature's blood splashed on him in the beach incident, he becomes Public Enemy #1, with the monster itself relegated to #2. If there's any kind of disease going around, then he's got it.
Contains the following tropes:
- Action Girl: Nam-joo
- The Alcoholic: Nam-il, and to an even greater extent, the hobo whom he befriends.
- Animal Nemesis: Averted, due to Korean Values Dissonance. "If a beast kills a man, then that beast should be torn limb from limb."
- Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever: At least, we think it's a tadpole. It could be a lungfish or something.
- Anticlimax: Nam-il slips and drops his last Molotov. Pleasantly averted a few seconds later when Nam-joo shows up, though.
- Badass Bystander: The American soldier who emerges from the crowd and tries to fight off the monster during its first rampage. A later news story reveals that he died of his wounds.
- Badass Family: The entire Park family. Nam-il gets special mention for dual wielding Molotov cocktails, though.
- Bittersweet Ending: Hyun-seo dies, but her father ends up taking in the orphan boy as his son, and has finally matured.
- Cassandra Truth: Hyun-seo is alive, damn it.
- Can You Hear Me Now: Hyun-seo's cellphone battery is dying, and, being in the sewer, she has no way to recharge it.
- Character Development
- Chekhov's Gag: When first encountering the creature, Gang-du throws a soda can at it to lure it out. It eats it and the whole crowd joins in and starts throwing food. A little later, the creature is regurgitating dozens of human bodies and skeletons it's been eating. The last item to fall out is Gang-du's soda can.
- Chekhov's Gun: Nam-joo's archery
- Daylight Horror: Purposefully invoked in the initial attack scene.
- Driven to Suicide: Around the beginning, a businessman is jumping off a bridge, and catches a glimpse of the creature just before he jumps.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The film deliberately evokes the SARS crisis, bird flu, and the Agent Orange bioweapon.
- Eagle Land: The film's portrayal of America is ultimately ambivalent: while the government is satirized rather viciously and there are one or two evil ones, an American soldier bravely gives his life trying to save a few people from the monster. Word of God says: "It's a stretch to simplify The Host as an anti-American film, but there is certainly a metaphor and political commentary about the U.S." This is probably why North Korea permitted the release of the movie and had good press about it. The sequel is apparently going to target the People's Republic of China, who deny the creature's existence.
- Eye Scream: The creature's death, which involves being shot directly in the eye with a flaming arrow. Nam-Joo also pulls off an Unflinching Walk in this scene.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: Nam-il gets a bottle broken on his head by a hobo.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Western viewers may recognize the anonymous American doctor with the cross-eye as Pilcher from The Silence of the Lambs. The pathologist at the beginning is Scott Wilson.
- Hobos, one of whom is a Deliberately Cute Child. Seriously, there's a montage of him discussing what kind of food he'd like to eat while generally being adorable.
- Homage: The idea of a giant monster carrying an even-more-dangerous disease was originally used in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
- Idiot Hero
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Averted. Nam-joo is the only one who can shoot worth a damn (and she's only good with a bow and arrow), and even then she tends to hesitate a bit too much.
- Improbable Weapon User: Gang-du gets increasingly skilled with a stop sign.
- Infant Immortality: Averted. But also followed through on during said aversion.
- Fan Nickname: The monster's name is never given, but Weta nicknamed it "Buscemi".
- Mighty Whitey: Played with in the initial rampage scene--an American soldier bravely steps up to help people escape the monster and tries to fight it off, but quickly gets chowed down upon. Alas, poor Donald...
- One Bullet Left: Subverted when Gang-Du loses track. There are no bullets left.
- Overly Long Gag:
- Gang-du's family mourns the loss of Hyun-seo, and won't stop crying!!
- Also when the creature starts regurgitating all the bodies it's been eating. You wonder how it could hold all that in there.
- Parental Abandonment: Hyun-seo's mother left after she was born, and she spends most of the movie trying to reunite with her father. Gang-du himself is a victim of this: his mother also left, and his father (though now very sorry) didn't take very good care of him.
- Physics Goof: If we forget about the problems a creature like that would have to even move outside of water in reality (that's the case of every monster movie, really), much less swinging around using its tail, still, how does a guy with a pole stop a massive, sprinting monster dead in its tracks? Alright, maybe it would have died anyways, but they should logically have both plunged into the water from the monster's momentum, or at least Gang-Du would have been sent flying from the shock.
- Promotion to Parent: The unbearably cute hobo child is raised by his older brother.
- Reckless Gun Usage: Nam-il keeps pointing the barrel of his shotgun at objects (and people). In one scene, he pointed and thrust the shotgun at Gang-du's head while the latter was asleep.
- The Virus: It turns out that there is no virus and the whole thing was mass hysteria. Unlike in Monster a Go-Go!, however, there undeniably was a monster.
- Why Isn't It Attacking?: Subverted.
- Writer on Board: Although it manages not to derail the plot.
- You Can Panic Now: The movie is a deconstruction of this.