One thing about the horror genre that deserves more attention is its function as a talent incubator. Horror is comparatively cheap on the average and there’s a built-in audience for monsters, madmen and more, so emerging filmmakers can often find a pathway to making a feature in the world of blood bags and gore gags.
Some of the most acclaimed directors in the world had early career success in horror. Francis Ford Coppola had Dementia 13. Before Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, Sam Raimi made the Evil Dead flicks. Peter Jackson? Brain Dead. Even Spielberg had Jaws. And Bong Joon-ho, who found critical acclaim and audience adoration with social satire Parasite? Well, he had The Host.
Released in 2006, the Korean-language monster movie The Host was Bong’s third feature film, but the first to find an audience outside his native South Korea and the festival circuit. In the film, the city of Seoul is menaced by a giant creature that has mutated in the Han River after US military scientists have dumped a batch of contaminated formaldehyde in the water.
The critter, a wonderfully grotesque creation that looks sort of like a giant cross between a tadpole and squid, but with legs, rampages along the river, gulping down hapless humans and seizing young Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung, who later appeared in Bong’s Snowpiercer), daughter of dim-witted snack bar owner Park Gang-du (Korean superstar Song Kang-ho, who was the dad in Parasite).
While conventional wisdom says that Hyun-seo is dead, Gang-du and his family – dad Hie-bong (Byun Hee-bong), who helps run the snack shop; brother Nam-il (Park Hae-il of War of the Arrows), a drunken former political activist; and sister Nam-joo (Bae Doo-na of Jupiter Ascending and Sense-8), a champion archer, are determined to hunt down the monster and either rescue or avenge Hyun-seo. And we are off and running.