As my good friend Dr. Ian Malcolm once said, “Life finds a way” and so can monsters apparently. What goes on in our daily lives and what happens is impossible to change. We can dream up ideas of time machines and parallel universes offering up second chances, but when it comes down to it, we must realize that we cannot change what has already happened--or what will happen. Whether you choose to believe that some God up there is controlling the course of events or if it’s all just a random predestined road map, it’s pretty hard to ignore the truth of the matter. This is what I’ve always taken away from monster movies and while it certainly is not the only way to read the monster theme, I think it’s an interesting one to examine.
Perhaps the film that embodies this theme almost perfectly is the South Korean film The Host. The Host is almost like several movies at once. It can be considered part comedy, horror, Sci-FI, infection, action adventure, revenge and mystery. It embodies a chaotic structure because the monster makes it that way. With one jaunt through a crowded river park area, the monster changes the landscape of an entire city. On the smaller scale, our main character-- Gang-du’s daughter, Hyun-seo gets taken by the monster and sets he and his family’s life into a grueling nightmare.
One of the best pleasant surprises I have ever received, was watching The Host. I had been putting it off for weeks, months even. Ignoring the almost 5 star rating on Netflix and being sorely mislead by the front cover--I assumed it would be just a typical silly SyFy type monster movie. I also avoided it because I thought it may reek of water terror. I have this phobia around animals in the water, and any film that features them will never fail to make me cry at least a little bit inside. In the end, I’m not sure what changed my mind. It really had everything working against it in terms of my personal taste, and yet I gave it a chance and am so glad I did.
Like a lot of monster movies, the truly captivating part about The Host isn’t the monster at all, but the relationships that are created and defined as the film goes on. When the film begins we know very little about our main family. We know the father bleaches his hair and acts like a 19 year old. We know the daughter is young and slightly embarrassed that her own father can’t come to career day. We know the Uncle is an alcoholic, and the Aunt is a famous archer. All we have are skeletons of a family that will grow and develop into flesh as time goes on.
That isn’t to say however that the monster isn’t a vital aspect of the film. He is after all the manifestation of the idea of fate and being unable to change life’s events. Aside from that, the monster is also just pretty amazing. Born from the rash decision of an American military man to pour hundreds of bottles of toxic chemicals down the drain, the monster is a mutated masterpiece. We first see it dangling off of a bridge, than dismounting gracefully into the river. The onlookers are wowed by its appearance, and after trying to get it to eat food the monster retreats underneath the water. Suddenly, as life appears to go back to normal, Gang-Du stares in horror as he watches the beast running full force down the walkway, snatching people up left and right and coming right towards him. It’s a moment that sent me reeling in terms of extraordinary unbelievability. I felt like I was a kid again, worshipping the esteemed size of Godzilla. This monster--was awesome.
Sure, the CGI in places leave little to be desired but overall the presence of the monster is one that is almost quite humbling. Every entrance of the monster is just as surprising and thrilling as the first. Here is what we all love most about monster movies and The Host never fails to deliver the goods. It is a film that challenges the genre, allowing for pure emotional connection and character’s that you ultimately care about over the monster. While I will always have a special place in my heart for Godzilla, The Host comes awfully close to being my favorite monster movie of all time, and there’s nothing I can do to change it.