If you're looking for a monster movie with family values and environmental warnings, check out The Host. This Korean horror movie (original title: Gwoemol) views the rampaging monster through the Park family's personal struggle with it.
Before the credits, an American scientist orders his South Korean colleague to dump bottles of formalehyde down the drain, despite the latter's warning that it will go into the Han River. After the credits we're at the Han River, so you know nothing good is going to happen.
It's a typical day for the Park family. Park Gang-Du (Kang-ho Sohn) is a sleepy, goofy guy asleep at the counter of the grocery store of his grandfather, Park Hie-Bong (Hie-bong Byeon). Gang-Du's schoolgirl daughter Park Hyun-seo (As-sung Ko) is excited to see their sister Park Nam-Joo (Du-na Bae) competing in archery in the Olympics. We also learn Gang-Du's brother Park Nam-il (Hae-il Park) is an unemployed student who's usually drunk.
Gang-Du is delivering food to someone on the beach when the people notice a dark shape in the water. Curiosity quickly turns to terror as the thing emerges: an enormous black creature that's like a salamander with six legs, a mouth that opens in four directions, and a long prehensile tail that lets it swing along the underside of bridges and sewers (not as silly as it sounds). The critter goes on a quick rampage, swatting some people aside and eating others, before vanishing in the Han River again -- with Hyun-seo caught in its giant tail.
No one outside the family believes Gang-Du's claim that his daughter is still alive. Worse, the word comes down that the creature is passing on a harmful infection to anyone who came in contact with it, leading to the Park family getting quarantined. For the rest of the film the Parks struggle against both the creature (to get Hyun-seo from her) and the government out to keep them isolated.
The Host is a bit more than a typical monster movie. There's some slapstick humor among the members of the Park family, and some typical scenes of heroism get turned into failure -- sometimes tragic -- from simple clumsiness. The acting is pretty good, as the Park family both squabbles and unites, often at the same time. The environmental message is a bit heavy handed, and the creature's behavior is often inconsistent: Why does it eat some people, crush others, and collect others? Still, The Host is an interesting horror movie: far from perfect, but still entertaining.
Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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