Hell yeah! Asian horror is not just creepy dead girls with long black hair. They do creature features, too, and this one, The Host, was AWESOME.
Synopsis is just a fancy word for plot: After some idiot dumps bottles and bottles of formaldehyde down the sink, it gets into the Han River and causes a freaky mutation. After a few years, an enormous mutated fish with legs starts wreaking havoc near the river. A young girl is taken by the monster, but when she calls one night, her family realizes she is not dead like the authorities believe and they escape capture by the government to try to save her.
Mixing elements found in classic creature features, comedy, and even a little drama, The Host is a highly entertaining flick from the folks in South Korea. The tongue-in-cheek humor lightens the mood that usually surrounds monster movies while the drama of the family's attempts to rescue their youngest member keep the tension high.
The first time we ever see the monster is right at the beginning, as it spectacularly rampages a crowd of people enjoying a day by the river. This is when the girl, Hyun-seo, is captured and taken to the monster's lair under a bridge. Hyun-seo's father, Gang-du, who is at first presented to us as kind of a deadbeat, is one of the people to fight the monster as it knocks people down, throws them into the river, and munches on whoever gets in its way. There's a great part where a group of people run into a trailer of some sort and the creature rushes in after them, and you see people's bloody hands trying to get out of the chained door as the trailer rocks and screams are heard.
The actors playing Hyun-seo, her father Gang-du, and her grandfather, aunt, and uncle all do a great job in their roles at both the comedy and the occasional drama. I'm not sure which one of these emotions the director was going for in the scene where all the family members go apeshit crying at the thought of Hyun-seo being dead but it's still a nice scene to watch. The news people taking pictures of the grieving family is perhaps one of the film's political commentaries - which also includes the bitter feelings about the US military presence in Korea.
There are some great moments dealing with the monster. Some of my favorites include a part where the creature returns to the lair where he stashes his bodies for future snacking (the lair is a dark, deep concrete tunnel) and he stands over the edge and regurgitates a slew of human bones into the tunnel. Another part is where Hyun-seo and another survivor boy has made a rope out of clothes to escape the tunnel, but it's too high for her to reach. When the creature is asleep in the tunnel, Hyun-seo runs up its back to reach the rope, but before she can climb up, the creature grabs her with its tentacles and gently sets her back on the ground. Guess he doesn't want his little pet to escape.
The Host is rather long for a monster movie, at almost two hours exactly, and while it starts off with a bang, it slows down a lot when the family gets separated. It is unclear how much time has passed since the monster made its first appearance and it probably would have helped the film more if the action was sped up. But in the same light, the scenes dealing with each family member trying to evade capture and still trying to find Hyun-seo are still interesting. Gang-du is experimented on by the government with huge needles in the collar bone and what looks like a drill to the head. Yeesh.
The film was an international success and at the time was South Korea's highest grossing film ever. It was nominated for and won several film festival awards and made many critic's top 10 lists for 2006. I never would have thought that a creature film could be so popular amongst mainstream critics, but The Host is well deserving of its praise. Quotes called it "a knockout monster movie" and "on par with Jaws," so check this one out and see what you think.