Appearing two years before CLOVERFIELD, it's reasonable to argue that THE HOST kicked off the modern-day kaiju craze that will lead, in two months, to either a triumphant GODZILLA or a disappointed me. I loved the hell out of this when I initially saw it, but years have passed and a rewatch seems like a good idea. We begin with a lab assistant dumping what look to be kegs of formaldehyde down the drain by the order of his salty American supervisor.
Incompetence is a major theme of THE HOST and the whole thing kicks off with a Korean kowtowing to his bossy American boss. The formaldehyde presumably ends up mutating a fish in the Han River, which will be somewhat important later. But, for now, we switch to the Park family, where bumbling Gang-Du takes naps at work and tries hard to connect with his daughter Hyun-seo. Our two storylines collide when the giant monster hits land and does a bunch of people in and also kidnaps Hyun-seo.
THE HOST slices into authority with a fierce satirical edge. There's the mentioned depiction of Americans as loud, short-sighted boors. But Korean officials don't fare much better. After the monster attacks, they round up survivors and victims' families into a building for mass grieving. But, when the families demand answers, the first response is to send a guy in a spacesuit and (incorrectly) suggest that the news will have all the answers. The second response is to panic and start grabbing people.
I lurve the scene in which Korean doctors are hurriedly turning on all their medical equipment before the Americans get there, just like the old Monty Python sketch. It's a fine example of the film's concern with fumbling behavior, but also displays how funny THE HOST gets at times. The movie's a good mix of big-beast horror, family drama, and comedy that's way funnier than stuff like BAD MILO (don't get me started). It's pretty difficult to mix all of that disparate material into a cohesive narrative, but THE HOST does a pretty nice job of it. There are a few instances of the movie's missteps when it comes to weaving together scenes with different goals, but overall everything's fairly well-balanced.
Even if you can cast some stones at the film as a narrative, it's pretty much unimpeachable as far as technical filmmaking is concerned. Composition, lighting, and integration of digital effects are all super-solid here and THE HOST basically functions as a master class as far as the raw elements of movies go.
As a giant monster movie, it gives its monster a decent amount of screen time, certainly much more than the stars of MONSTERS get. I remember a lot of buzz about how well the thing in THE HOST turned out and it's still a pretty good ambassador for digital effects. The movie as a whole holds up, too. It's not a game-changer or anything, but it's still a worthwhile watch.