THE HOST is remarkable for all the ways it is NOT your typical American monster film. The movie is a cross between Godzilla, Jurassic Park and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Extrapolating from the Troma pictures school of B horror, it infuses these old formulas with a healthy dose of humor.
While in a Spielberg flick we would see the American Father reuniting the family after it was torn apart by the monster’s appearance, here the Father dies in the process of establishing his paternal function. Thanks to the director’s dry sense of humor, his death is not only pointless, but also, quite stupid. He dies because like the rest of us, he was brought up on images of American militaristic athletes jumping into the monster’s jaws to save the world. Further contrasting the dominant US pattern, dad’s family is a bunch of dysfunctional nerds, persistently unable to perform as heroes. If in the end they do manage to kill the Monster, it’s more of an accident than any success. The Monster itself is a rather inefficient creature, moving too slowly, slipping, falling and missing; it takes forever before he realizes that a victim may be hiding in his den. Of course, nobody will arrest the American scientist or call the Korean government to responsibility for creating the thing. And there’s no Happily Everafter either! The schoolgirl dies not once, but TWICE, wrapping up the movie on a mercilessly pessimistic note.
Apart from being topnotch B-horror entertainment, THE HOST is also a biting satire of globalisation’s effects on South Korean society. The family unit is thwarted every step of the way by the Korean-American governmental apparatus. The authorities devised a SARS-type conspiracy theory to cover up the fact that an American scientist dumped formaldehyde in the Han river, giving birth to the Monster. Mobile phone technology, instead of assisting network communication, causes many deaths in the film. There is a looming sense that the entire governmental system exists only to intimidate the common folk.