Review: Korean Monster horror movie in the vein of Shaun of the Dead.

I kept hearing about how good a monster movie this was supposed to be. Best horror movie in decades, some said. Hey, it’s playing locally, I think I’ll go check it out!

These movies have a typical formula:

First: Create the monster. In this case, the opening scene is an American military officer ordering a poor, obedient Korean assistant to pour gallons of formaldehyde down the sink and into the major river. Based on a real incident, this ‘accident’ is the birth of the hideous mutation that, for reasons that really don’t make sense, is called The Host.  This is one of the scenes critics pounce upon showing how it shows Korea’s resentment of American military occupation.  It’s there, true, but it really is a minor note.

Second: Meet the average Joe hero(s). A lower-class (i.e., poor) family that survives selling snacks near the river from a rickety snack shack. The grandfather owns and runs the shack with his slacker son and the son’s more together daughter. The old man also has a chronically unemployed son and, in their one bright spot, a daughter who is an Olympic contender in archery, but she seems to choke when it counts.

Third: Introduce the conflict.  The creature jumps out of the river, eats a bunch of people and generally causes havoc. That’s when I realised it’s not really a monster movie, but a comedy. The hapless hero spends most of his time lucking out and getting involved in slapstick violence with the monster (and himself). After his daughter is abducted by the creature, the dysfunctional family pulls together to find her despite the authorities refusing to believe any of them.

There are other themes in the movie. For example, the movie maker seems to have a problem with the South Korean government’s deference to America, and America’s frightening disregard for people to cover up their own mistakes. But really, that’s a relatively small part of the movie. To me it’s the comedy of this family. They struggle mightily to find their beloved child, but their own ineptness and run-ins with the authorities waylay them. Cutting to the daughter surviving in the creature’s layer, she ends up being the most resourceful and intelligent of the bunch even managing to come up with a good escape plan.

The monster action is somewhere between laughable (in a bad way) and mediocre. There are better monster films out there. The evil authority type subplot is kind of interesting and much scarier than the monster actually, but I ended up liking the movie because of the bumbling, devoted family.