Filmmaker Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning movie Parasite just arrived on Hulu Wednesday, which is fantastic and you should definitely watch that if you haven’t already. But that’s not the only Bong movie that’s been newly added to the service.
A few of his older movies are also now on Hulu, including The Host. The 2006 film is a gripping story of a family caught in the middle of a crisis involving a mutated river monster terrorizing an area around the Han River in South Korea.
Despite being a monster movie, The Host has many parallels to Parasite and the pair would work as a perfect double feature for one of the dozens of movie nights you could have in the coming weeks and months. Or, if you’ve seen Parasite and want to dig a bit more into Bong’s work, The Host is a great pick.
The movie follows the Park family, which hinges around Gang-du, played by Song Kang-ho, who runs a small food stall with his father Hee-bong (Byun Hee-bong) and his daughter Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung) by the Han River. Gang-du, who is a bit of an airhead, goes out on a sunny day to check out a strange thing hanging from a nearby bridge, only to find out it’s a huge, deadly monster.
Hell breaks out almost instantly as it reaches land and starts swallowing people up in broad daylight. While Gang-du and Hee-bong get away, the young Hyun-seo gets grabbed by the beast, which retreats into the river.
What follows is a difficult and frequently diverted effort to rescue Hyun-seo, who has been taken to the monster’s lair and seems to be the only survivor there. She manages to find a cell phone and reach her father, who thought she was dead and is being held in a hospital under the assumption that he and the rest of the family (including his competitive archer sister Nam-joo, and his brother with a drinking problem Nam-il) have been infected by a virus carried by the Host (the monster).
There are some surprising parallels to the current coronavirus outbreak. The virus that’s described by the government in The Host is said to have similarities to SARS, which is the respiratory illness that can be caused by coronaviruses. It’s so odd to see a movie from 2006 have scenes where people are wearing masks and being wary of people who are coughing near them, but that’s what’s happening in The Host, making it an oddly relevant movie in these strange times.
As Gang-du tries to explain the situation to doctors, government officials, and the military, nobody deigns to believe him. The people in power have no regard for Gang-du or his daughter and so he and the family break out, becoming wanted, and head into the danger area that the rest of humanity has evacuated to find Hyun-seo.
The dynamic of the family is great and full of humor, which helps offset the very dark story with very real stakes, but doesn’t take away from the movie and its themes. If anything, it helps bring a nice touch of reality to the otherwise outlandish premise.
As the Park family tries to reach Hyun-seo, they run into a handful of themes that are present throughout so many of Bong’s films. There are government cover-ups and lies, people in power who don’t take their issues seriously, strong family ties, and plenty of people who are way more interested in making money than lending a hand to their fellow people.
The Host is often frustrating as the family keeps running into various roadblocks and things grow more dire for Hyun-seo, but those frustrations continuously fade away as the characters manage to snake their way through situation after situation in (usually) lighthearted slapstick fashion.
Sprinkled throughout the movie are some intensely emotional scenes that feel like gut punches for this family that’s doing their best in a terrible situation. Although you want everything to be OK in the end, that’s just not how things tend to work out in life, especially not in Bong Joon-ho movies.
There is pain and suffering and some truly grotesque moments, but there’s a good balance with the humor and love that pours through The Host.
The Host is now streaming on Hulu.