Bong Joon-ho is a fascinating director, and for the start of Kaijune, a theme month dedicated to cinematic monsters, I simple had to start with The Host, one of his lesser-known films but also one of his most accomplished.
Bong Joon-ho does tend to make movies about monsters, but usually they’re figurative monsters. Capitalism, colonialism, greed, class inequalities, social injustice. But here, this is a literal monster born from humanity's greed, government conspiracy and environmental disaster. A monster who will eat anyone and anything in its path. A monster Bong was insistent to show in its entirety up front, and in daylight.
Centred around the everyday Park family, and hapless father Gang-du, a shop worker who's pitied and berated by his family, loses his daughter in the panic after the monster appears out of the Han River. Gang-du ends up incarcerated and lobotomized, but still does everything in his limited power to find and save Hyun-seo, who refuses to be damselled and in turn protects and saves a younger child from being eaten by the monster.
But is the monster really the monster? Or is America the monster?
It's a deeply personal and relatable family story, wrapped in a monster movie. No wonder it broke box office records in South Korea...
I would love to hear your thoughts on The Host (Gwoemul) (2006) !