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Reviews & Ratings for
The Host More at IMDbPro »Gwoemul (original title)

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265 out of 350 people found the following review useful:

Great Entertainment With Brilliant Moments from Bong Jun Ho

Author: Richard Brunton from United Kingdom
16 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Host is a film that people have been talking about a lot during its production and the teasers and posters I'd seen to date had gotten me pretty interested. So when it was announced for the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year I had to go and see it.

I have to say I was more than impressed with what I saw. The Host is a film that provides something of everything from suspense to terror, from drama to a little touch of comedy, this film has it all. What's more surprising is that it delivers all of them very well and provides great entertainment on the way.

The opening of the film is perhaps one of the strongest I've seen. Starting with introductions to some of the main characters we instantly get a feel for who they are and what they are about, all the time with a healthy amount of humour. The first appearance of the creature is viewed quite satirically, or rather the peoples attitude and "car crash" mentality is.

Then when it races through a busy park attacking people, it's probably the best portrayal of group blind panic I've seen, and coupled with some excellent edge of your seat and distressing scenes. The shot of the girl standing in shock is one of the most disturbing scenes you'll witness, it's not something you'd expect to happen in a typical film and it's indicative of scenes to come.

Throughout the film you'll be toyed with, there are the usual straightforward scares, and one so effective I leapt out of my seat. There are also moments like the opening one at the park, where the unexpected happens and you really do get a surprise at the direction the story has just taken.

There are other similar incredibly strong moments that will hit you with a shock, and they seem out of place and going against what you believe should be happening. I felt myself looking at the screen in surprise thinking "That's not fair!", and that's a great response to illicit.

The frequent humour is an aspect of the story that is really well handled, it never detracts from other areas of the story, and often helps to relax a tense or distressing moment in order for the filmmakers to return to the situation and build it up again. Sneaky devils.

One of the oddest moments is when the family are mourning wildly in the school hall, this begins sadly and slowly, building in your uncomfortableness and sadness. Then something strange happens, they just manage to tip the performance into humour, just enough to lighten the situation and raise a few sniggers. Then photographers and film crews descend and we're presented with an interesting social commentary, yet you're still feeling the humour of the moment and just coming out from the sadness of the family. It's all wonderfully woven together.

The leads are good, particularly the young girl, Park Hyun-seo played by Ah-sung Ko, who is very convincing and strong in character. At times the emotions she shows are so natural and believable, you'll find yourself caught up in her scenes.

The other characters continually walk that fine line between comedic and serious performances. Each of them have their flaws which are shown throughout the film, but in the end each get their chance to redeem themselves and sometimes they get multiple chances, often they need them too.

That raises another interesting aspect, instead of following a standard route with the characters, their development follows the unusual turns of the film itself and we're treated to surprises and failures when we don't really expect them. Indeed you could almost say that these characters are more human than many fully focused dramatic character based films.

The creature effects in this film are quite superb. It has weight and a natural, organic movement. So often CGI creatures will appear to run over the ground or not properly interact and collide with real life objects, here though every effort has been made to address this, and it works superbly.

I don't believe I'm spoiling anything about the movie when I say that the ending seems slightly flat against the amount of entertainment that the rest of the film has managed to deliver. It wraps everything up incredibly neatly, with each character having had their shot at redemption. Yet it was a little too neatly tied up for me, although it didn't detract from anything else the film gave.

I'd recommend this film even for those not interested in Asian Horror, for this can't be classed alongside what you would expect from a typical Asian Horror, indeed there's not even a lot of horror. This is a suspenseful, thriller, drama, comedy, you're getting the idea. It's great entertainment with some brilliant moments of shock and terror. Well worth watching.

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196 out of 272 people found the following review useful:

Funny, scary, emotional, intense, thrilling, sad. And then funny some more.

Author: Hoban-W from Sydney, Australia
18 August 2006

What else is there to say? The Host elicits every feeling, every sense of urgency, dread, sadness and happiness with ease. And somehow it manages to cram all of that into the first fifthteen minutes. After that it speeds along and doesn't let up. I was with it till the end, laughing when I was supposed to, crying, and even cheering. It is one of those rare films that blends all the respective genres into one with an almost scary simplicity. I shouldn't be surprised, it is from writer and director Joon Ho Bong whose last films the equally brilliant Memories of Murder and the excellent black comedy Barking Dogs Never Bite featured a similar feeling.

How does the man do it? Like with his other films particularly Memories of Murder he manages to break the conventions of the genre by frequently poking fun at the rather stale "monster" genre and by taking a fresh, appealing perspective. It's funny at all the right moments and even in moments when you feel you shouldn't be laughing you cant help but laugh. It's full of vibrantly realized characters, who each have their "moment" that make you laugh at the ridiculousness or gasp at the coolness. It is written with care and love, the pace never stagnates and the dialogue is never forced. The CG monster effects are nice and appropriately unrealistic in appearance. Perhaps too unconventional for American audiences but it really works in the context of the films rather serious yet quirky atmosphere. The acting is excellent, Kang Ho-Song continues to impress, star in the making Ah-sung Ko gives a very good first performance, and the rest of the cast give great performances. All managing the frequent dips into serious and comical and even both at the same time.

The Host is a brilliant, brilliant film. I'm so pleased I had the pleasure of seeing it at the cinemas, the way it deserves to be seen. Despite fitting into a rather common genre, The Host is an original. It is a unique and refreshing film, full of charming characters, awesome action sequences and even an emotional poignancy that weaves itself into the film at the most appropriate of times.

The Host is undoubtedly my favourite film of the year and one of the most entertaining films I have seen in recent years. If you like your films to be highly enjoyable, but also smart and even emotional, you will love what The Host has to offer.

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147 out of 202 people found the following review useful:

Best "Monster FX" in years!

Author: Denny Carr from Australia
8 August 2006

I just saw this film at the 2006 Melbourne International Film Festival. So invigorating to see a fantasy type film in a great setting on a big beautiful screen. Full house (aprox 400-500 people)Classic old theatre style of The Regent Theatre in the heart of Melbourne city.

What a great surprise to see a quality entertaining monster flick. You might begin to think as I tend to that the rest of your cinema going days will be spent avoiding such appalling Hollywood "Crap-busters" such as Godzilla or (enter current relevant movie here ;-) This film proves that adults can still be taken back...taken back to staring at the silver screen in wonder. It further proves, that a fantasy/adventure monster film can be a serious and funny film at the same time. Formula defying, original, intelligent... comical and sad. Comedy with pathos (just like real life refusing to fit neatly into categories)...very clever film making. Even with the alleged fear of subtitles, I would think there was a massive audience for this film amongst English speaking audiences...if only they would be given the chance to see it. Where's the mainstream distribution in Australia for a film like this? Best special effects and monster effects I've seen in years!

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134 out of 211 people found the following review useful:

Excellent monster movie

Author: zoelat from New Zealand
30 July 2006

This is a movie which will go straight into "best monster movies" lists; it is ground-breaking in the way humorous and horror content has been intertwined by a master film director. It was the closing film, shown last night (July 30) in the Auckland International Film Festival. There was a packed house of which about 60% were Korean people living in New Zealand. The audience was very attentive and the reception given to the movie was justly big applause. The animatronic effects have been done scrupulously well and viewers can look forward to being enthralled by the skills of those who "made the monster". We got the print which had come straight from Cannes and apparently the film opened just two days before we saw it in Auckland. There is no doubt that this movie will go on to do very big business wherever people appreciate great horror films. My inclination to rate it 10/10 was tempered only by a little doubt about the pacing of some sequences, but it is certainly worth 9/10. Look out for when it comes to a theater near you.

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66 out of 91 people found the following review useful:

The best monster movie in years!

Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
24 January 2008

I have to admit that I was sceptical of the first reviews I read regarding 'The Host'. I'm not a fan of the majority of the modern day Asian horror output due to dull, yet immensely popular, films such as The Ring, Dark Water and The Grudge. The Host, however, is a film that truly deserves the praise lauded upon it. While the premise is not all that original (mutated monsters from all different countries have been terrorising our screens for decades); the style and execution of it is; and that is what makes the film brilliant. Not only is the direction stunning, the film beautiful and the central monster well designed; the way that Joon-ho Bong goes about telling this story is what really sets the film apart. On the surface, The Host is the story of a mutated squid monster that emerges from the Han River. However, beneath that it's actually the story of the Park family, who find themselves at odds with the Government after the youngest daughter is kidnapped by the monster. They're being held in quarantine, and decide to break out to track down their missing loved one...

On the whole, I'm not a big fan of CGI; but I can't complain too much here. The monster is really well designed and doesn't look like any other screen monster that I've seen. The animation of it is excellent too, and the creature does almost feel like it's alive! As mentioned, the main meat of the film comes in the form of the story of the Park family who have lost their loved one. The characters are all well thought out and clearly defined and director Joon-ho Bong does an excellent job of ensuring that we care about them and about the central story. The monster appears several times throughout the film, though it's neither under or over used and the story of the family is at least as interesting as the monster itself. There's also a deeper point on display, although it doesn't have quite as much meat as was maybe intended. The two messages I could pick out were a warning message against pollution (the monster was created by chemicals being dumped in the river) and another about Government control. The central scene is the one that sees the monster first appear from the river and The Host never really tops that sequence; but regardless of that this is the best monster movie I've seen in years and not even the downer ending could wipe a smile off my face when it finished. Don't miss this one!

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98 out of 156 people found the following review useful:

Enjoyable action/horror with humour

Author: kebo43 from Australia
27 August 2006

South Korean movies are usually enjoyable, offering a humour to counter the plot and disturbing theme(s), and this movie was no exception. I usually hate horror movies, but I enjoyed this action/horror/drama end to end and I left the cinema with a strong feeling of contentness.

The horror was actually quite interesting, as were each of the main actors and the relationships between them were surprising and amusing, with some really witty sub themes thrown in along the way and some good suspense as well.

The movie had great undertones and conversation topics to keep you talking to your friends for hours.

Overall: It was a really enjoyable experience, witty and well constructed.

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87 out of 140 people found the following review useful:

Believable characters and moments that will make you jump out of your chair.....

Author: minbri7 from Tokyo, Japan
7 September 2006

I happened to watch this tonight at the cinema although I don't speak or understand Korean... let alone Japanese...however it wasn't difficult to grasp the story or get caught up with the characters and the situation.

This film is comical in parts and borders on science fiction, drama and even horror, but it is really fantastic to watch and displays a lot of emotion and realistic reactions. The special effects are excellent, the characters are believable and it is one movie well worth watching even if it is in a different language. There is nothing like a creature from hell to add a bit of excitement to your day....

For the first time ever I knocked over my coke and jumped 6 feet out of my seat when I was suddenly and unexpectedly given the fright of my life....for those of you that like this kind of on the watch out for this little gem. (Subtitles would be an idea).

I highly recommend this film and cant wait to buy it and own it on DVD!!!!

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51 out of 75 people found the following review useful:

the kind of movie the 1998 Godzilla should have- or maybe could never have- been

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
9 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Host by filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho is a funny, sharp monster movie the likes of which remind me of what I did NOT see in the remake of Godzilla in 1998. There they had the special effects, the huge lizard, and the all-star cast. But there was a hollowness even in the better or funnier moments. Here the filmmaker is more focused on putting just the right hint of satire and message behind material that actually works with the bigger picture. It's a story with its focus kept small, even amid the virus outbreak scares and protests by the masses (one is reminded of SARS and other disasters in Asia's recent memory, not just Korea or China). It's about a family that becomes torn through this huge fish-monster crawling out of the water and killing/taking people back to his sort of sewer-lair. The amazing thing too is how entertaining it is, and the line between comedy and tragedy, and melodrama and genuine excitement and terror, for better or worse, ends up making The Host something that should keep cult-movie fans captivated.

After expository scenes showing how pouring chemicals can lead to a massive mutation mistake, we're introduced to Park Gang-du (the very talented Song Kang-Ho), who is a bit of a lazy guy running his business, not that well, though with a daughter he cares for. This all changes when the monster comes upon the scene (that being one of the very best parts of the film), and the daughter is taken away from him. He thinks he's seen the worst now, and the whole family grieves- this is another of the scenes that successfully skates against a horrible thing like losing a child and delivering it in absurd ways- only to discover, at least to Gang-du, that she lives via a call from a cell phone. The focus is now set for the rest of the film- find the sewer she's at and rescue her. If only people could calm down about this so-called virus outbreak.

The scenes with the family, and all of the actors involved, are really the strongest scenes, showcasing each one's talents and strengths (the grandfather character played by Hie-bong Byeon, is one of the best). It all leads up to a powerhouse climax involving noxious chemicals, and facing down the beast for good. The weaker aspects, including an intriguing but underdeveloped bit of political and social satire involving the control and fear and such instilled in the public, are not too deterring as luck would have it. The creature is also a marvel, as something that is, of course, not looking like much of something that's real, but as a visual effect it works much, much better than in the monster movies of recent years. It's believable in the unbelievable sense, and there's even a couple of true shocks that come out from its quasi-indeterminable physical make-up. The Host is, above all else though, a B-movie, and Bong Joon-Ho knows this like it's nobody's business. This is why the film works, even when it doesn't completely, and it's always a fun ride in both the ridiculous and catastrophic, putting a good grin on my face for more than half of the picture.

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69 out of 114 people found the following review useful:

Formidable Monster and Humanity of Ordinary People

Author: keymanh from South Korea
3 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A movie focused on a monstrous creature is essentially just for fun time. Viewers do not expect much logical or scientific clarification, which CSI viewers seek. They just want to be psychologically exposed to all the horror, consternation, distress, and panic a monster in the film creates. All they need is some kind of catharsis. Viewers of Godzilla do not ask how the atomic explosion could produce such a monster. Nor do the viewers of Tremors press for Q&A on the 'advent' of that giant underground-leech. The same goes with the leviathan being in Aligator. For them, 'somehow' is just about enough for an answer.

Gwaemul, literally, 'monster' in Korean, is said to have been born, following the discard of a large amount of liquid formaldehyde(HCHO) into Han River by 'malignantly' negligent manager of a morgue. The Giant Fish with stupendous fins or legs appears on the riverside and hurts, grabs, and kills people.

Kangho Song(plays Kangdu), owner of a vending booth at the riverside, is a lazy guy in the low income bracket. Good-natured father of his(Hiebong) usually tends the booth. Many people frequent this side of the river, including bums and hobos. Kangho lost his daughter to the fish-monster. What could or should he and his family do in that desperate situation? Awesome scenes and fear-inducing camera tricks, and sticky family bond before the overwhelming power of this creature....all these were well expressed in the hand of Joonho Bong, director. Hiebong Byeon's play was impressive.

It may not be the best monster-movie I've ever seen but is definitely one of the best.

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23 out of 28 people found the following review useful:


Author: Paul Magne Haakonsen from Denmark
26 January 2010

This movie took me by storm, it is by far one of the more interesting, fast paced, seat-gripping movies to come out of Korea.

When I initially picked up this movie, I was sort of sceptical, a monster movie from Korea? Going to be mediocre at best. But this is where I thought wrong...

Right from the beginning, this movie was interesting, and it never lets you go once it got you. Fast pace from start till end. And it really helps that the effects are awesome.

The movie mixes humour well with the "horror" part of it, as it is a monster movie. And it works well. Even if you are not a particular fan of Asian movies, you might want to check this out for the effects alone.

I have seen this movie a couple of times already, and it doesn't get boring. It is somewhat of a gem in Asian film history - at least I think so.

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