This page is for the 2006 South Korean film. You may be looking for the 2013 film adaptation of the Stephenie Meyer book, or the 2020 horror film Host.
The Host (or Gwoemul,note as it's known in its home country) is a 2006 South Korean film co-written and directed by Bong Joon-ho.
After an American military pathologist stationed in Korea orders his associate to dump over a hundred bottles of formaldehyde down the drain, sightings of a strange amphibious creature in the Han River emerge years later, with fish in the river mysteriously dying off.
It's now the year 2006; a man by the name of Park Gang-du owns a local snack kiosk with his father, Hee-bong, with the rest of their family living together. While working, the previously-thought-to-be-myth creature suddenly makes landfall and starts attacking locals, attempting to feed on anything that gets in its path before disappearing back into the river's depths, but not before eating some of its victims and taking Gang-du's daughter, Hyun-seo, with it.
Afterwards, the government and the United States military quickly arrive and announce that the creature has been subjected to an unknown virus, and soon quarantines the population that made contact with the creature, including Gang-du and his family whom tried to fend off the creature during its rampage.
Contains the following tropes:
- Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: The Seoul sewers, especially the one that Hyun-seo is trapped in.
- Action Girl: Nam-joo, a high-achieving Olympic archer.
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The action in the movie is spaced out with scenes of the Park family discussing their relationship with each other while hiding out from the threat and trying to save their youngest member.
- The Alcoholic: Nam-il, and to an even greater extent, the hobo whom he befriends.
- America Saves the Day: Subverted and deconstructed. The authorities deliberately prevent any Koreans from doing anything against the creature- the South Korean forces are called off in their hunt for it- so they can have all the glory. In the final battle, the American army arrives with Agent Yellow, a toxic chemical that causes severe illness to almost anyone coming in contact with it, but it doesn't manage to kill the creature, and the ones who save the day are a working class Korean Dysfunctional Family.
- Animal Nemesis: Averted, due to Korean Values Dissonance. "If a beast kills a man, then that beast should be torn limb from limb."
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Nam-il, who's the most impatient around Gang-du.
- Artistic License – Physics: If we forget about the problems a creature like that would have to even move outside of water in reality (that's the case of every monster movie, really), much less swinging around using its tail, still, how does a guy with a pole stop a massive, sprinting monster dead in its tracks? Alright, maybe it would have died anyways, but they should logically have both plunged into the water from the monster's momentum, or at least Gang-du would have been sent flying from the shock. In that case, Gang-du got inexplicably super-strong all of a sudden. Maybe it was the brain surgery.
- To be fair, while its legs are wonky, the creature itself is not particularly large; its body size is in the mid-to-large theropod dinosaur range. While its actual biology is another point all together, its size isn't particularly absurd.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: A malformed…fish-thing a good 40 feet long.
- Anticlimax: Just when Nam-il is dramatically winding up to throw his last Molotov at the monster, it ends up slipping from his hand and breaking on the ground right before he can throw it. Pleasantly averted a few seconds later when Nam-joo shows up, though.
- Badass Bystander: Donald White, the American soldier who emerges from the crowd and tries to fight off the monster during its first rampage. A later new story reveals that he eventually dies of his wounds in hospital. This, however, means he initially survived, despite the last we saw of him being the monster pinning him by the arm, with him stabbing it.
- Badass Family: The entire Park family. Nam-il gets special mention for dual wielding Molotov cocktails, though.
- Big Bad: The creature/Gwoemul, an Eldritch Abomination mutated by liquid formaldehyde poured down the drain from a chemical lab leading to the Han River near Seoul by an American military pathologist's Korean assistant.
- Bilingual Backfire: The American doctor explains in English to the Korean translator that the virus the monster was carrying wasn't real. Unfortunately for them, Gang-du understands a couple of the basic English words and realises what's been going on. In a deleted scene, the doctor and the translator realize their mistake and continue in German.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The American doctor operating on Gang-du seems empathetic, but as Gang-du begins to protest and explain that no one ever listens him, the doctor caresses his patient's face, but instead of drying the man's tears and telling him that the situation is in safe hands, he proceeds to tell his interpreter that the virus has spread, even though he knows that there's no virus.
- Bittersweet Ending: The creature is killed, but at the cost of Hyun-seo's, Hee-bong's, Se-jin's and many other lives. The protagonist, Gang-du ends up taking in the orphan boy Se-joo as his son, and has finally matured.
- Bizarre Alien Locomotion: The creature backfilps its way along the undersides of bridges on multiple occasions, alternately gripping with its feet and its prehensile tail.
- Break the Cutie: Gang-du, over and over and over again.
- Brick Joke: Gang-du throws a beer can at the monster to feed it when he first sees it. Later in the movie it's the last thing it regurgitates.
- Bring My Brown Pants: Se-Joo wets himself when Hyun-Seo is grabbed by the monster while trying to escape.
- Bumbling Dad: Gang-du gives beer to his daughter and can't afford a decent phone for her, but he loves her very much all the same.
- Butt-Monkey: Poor Gang-du never catches a break throughout the movie. He's never been allowed to do anything useful with his life because he's not particularly bright and unceremoniously dozes off every so often, his wife left him, his siblings don't respect him, his daughter is abducted by a monster, and nobody believes him when he realizes she's still alive, he's targeted for carrying a virus which turns out not to be real, he's had tissue samples taken from him and a needle rammed into his head, and when you think things don't get any worse for him, his father and his daughter are killed by the monster on separate occasions.
- By "No", I Mean "Yes": Gang-du trying to explain to the police officer that Hyun-seo is still alive: "She's deceased, but she's not dead". The officer remarks that he's talking in circles.
- The Cameo: Scott Wilson as the American military pathologist who has the formaldehyde dumped into the river.
- Cassandra Truth: Hyun-seo is alive, damn it.
- Casting Gag: Nam-joo hides out in a bridge beam and is shown searching for Hyun-seo while walking along a small bridge above the river. Bae Doo-na is terrified of heights.
- Cell Phones Are Useless: Hyun-seo's cellphone battery is dying, and, being in the sewer, she has no way to recharge it.
- Chekhov's Gag: When first encountering the creature, Gang-du throws a soda can at it to lure it out. It eats it and the whole crowd joins in and starts throwing food. An hour or so[note]] in real time[[/note]], the creature is seen regurgitating dozens of human bodies and skeletons it's been eating. The last item to fall out is Gang-du's soda can.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Nam-joo's archery skills. During the final battle, she successfully shoots a flaming arrow right into the eye of the gasoline-drenched monster, setting it ablaze.
- Gang-du's signpost. In the end, he breaks apart both ends and turns it into a makeshift spear, then uses it to deliver the killing blow to the monster.
- Hee-bong pays off Director Cho with all the money Gang-du had been saving up to buy Hyun-seo a new phone.
- Childish Older Sibling: Gang-du is both the oldest of the Park siblings and the most immature.
- Coincidental Broadcast: Invoked, then immediately defied as the supervisor at the shelter tries to find the right channel, but realizes the news isn't on yet.
- Cool Aunt: Nam-joo, a bronze medal archer. She seems to be Hyun-seo's favourite relative, judging by the photograph of them together at the end.
- Convenient Cranny: Hyun-seo is taken by the monster to its sleeping area in the sewers, where it occasionally excretes the skeletal remains of its victims. She manages to survive by hiding inside a pipe for an extended period, which is just big enough for a child (and later another child) to fit inside.
- Daylight Horror: Purposefully invoked in the initial attack scene.
- Death of a Child:
- Se-jin, the teenage brother of Se-joo, is Killed Offscreen and eventually devoured by the monster.
- Hyun-seo tragically dies while protecting Se-joo within the belly of the beast.
- Death by Materialism: A hazmat worker goes out of his car and towards the water to pick up some money he spotted, and is promptly ambushed and devoured by the monster.
- Developing Doomed Characters: The film doesn't drag its feet developing the monster, but gives enough introduction time to the characters so that you care about them, and are genuinely shocked about the deaths of Hee-bong and Hyun-seo.
- Disney Death: Nam-joo. While searching for Hyun-seo, the monster charges straight at her, rams into her and sends her flying hard into a wall. However, she survives.
- Nam-il drops himself off of a highway bridge to escape, hurts himself on the riverbank below, gives a last-ditch text to Nam-joo and passes out. However, he's not dead.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The film deliberately evokes the SARS crisis, bird flu, and the Agent Orange bioweapon.
- The Door Slams You: When Donald and Gang-du try to save the group of people in the trailer, they finally get the chain off and floods of people burst out through the doors, nearly crushing them both.
- Dope Slap: Hee-bong does this to Gang-du and Nam-il when they all realize that Nam-joo isn't in the escape van with them.
- Dressing as the Enemy: The Parks try to disguise themselves as medical staff to escape from quarantine. Unfortunately, Gang-du's blond hair blows their cover.
- Driven to Suicide: Near the very beginning, a businessman is jumping off a bridge, and catches a glimpse of the creature just before he jumps.
- Dumb Blond: Gang-du has bleached blond hair with black roots, to show that he's not very bright. He eventually gets rid of the blond highlights as he becomes a more responsible parent.
- Dysfunctional Family: The Parks. The father, Hee-bong is a single parent who has to work hard to keep his family afloat, sometimes unintentionally having caused Parental Neglect; the eldest son Gang-du is clumsy, absent-minded, socially inept and a slight narcoleptic due to protein deficiency as a child, who does a few questionable things like giving his daughter beer; the other son Nam-il is an alcoholic anarchist; and the daughter, Nam-joo, while a high achiever, chokes under pressure.
- Eagleland: The film's portrayal of America is ultimately ambivalent: while the government is satirized rather viciously and there are one or two evil ones, an American soldier bravely gives his life trying to save a few people from the monster. Word of God says: "It's a stretch to simplify The Host as an anti-American film, but there is certainly a metaphor and political commentary about the U.S." This is probably why North Korea permitted the release of the movie and had good press about it. The sequel is apparently going to target the People's Republic of China, who deny the creature's existence.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Se-joo and Se-jin appear at the beginning. Se-joo tries to steal candy from the stand at the beginning, after Gang-du, who was currently tending it, had fallen asleep on the job yet again, but Se-jin stops him before Hee-bong comes along and drives them both away.
- Eldritch Abomination: The creature is this: it is a monstrous fish-like creature created out of dumped formaldehyde (even though it's not alien in origin).
- Epic Fail: Gang-du tries to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after recovering Hyun-seo's dead body, but he trips and falls. Fortunately his siblings have his back.
- Nam-il also charges after the creature with a Molotov cocktail, but he falls over as well. Again, Nam-joo and the hobo from earlier are there to help him.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Gang-du's blond highlights are gone by the end of the film and so is the scruffy hairstyle, as a sign of his maturing responsibility as a parent.
- Eye Scream: The creature's death, which involves being shot directly in the eye with a flaming arrow. Nam-Joo also pulls off an Unflinching Walk in this scene.
- In a deleted scene, Gang-du tears out another of its eyes.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Gang-du and his younger sister Nam-joo. Nam-joo is a high-achieving archer, while Gang-du isn't even smart or ambitious enough to do more than work at his father's snack stand. Nam-il isn't much better off than Gang-du, being an alcoholic and former political protester, but even he looks down on Gang-du.
- Foreshadowing: Early in the film, Hyun-seo complains about her outdated phone. It seems amusing at first, but then later she tries calling Gang-du and her phone is almost out of battery.
- While in quarantine, Gang-du is told that he shouldn't eat anything until the next morning because he's been affected with the virus. Late that night, he gets hungry and eats some tinned seafood, and nothing happens. This is a hint towards the fact that the virus is a lie.
- In Gang-du's first scene, he wakes with a start thinking he heard Hyun-seo calling him, but in fact he heard a different girl calling to her own father. This foreshadows a moment a little later in the film when Gang-du, trying to drag Hyun-seo away from the monster, trips over his own feet and falls flat on the ground, and when he gets up, he accidentally grabs another little girl's hand.
- Hee-bong mentions that Gang-du has something wrong with his brain that causes his Manchild behavior. After his brain surgery, he's much more capable.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Hee-bong and Nam-joo are Melancholic, Gang-du is Sanguine, Nam-il is Choleric and Hyun-seo is Phlegmatic.
- Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Hee-hong as the Conflicted, Gang-du as the Optimist, Nam-joo as the Apathetic and Nam-il as the Cynic. Hyun-seo, who is absent from the family for most of the film, is the Realist.
- Funny Background Event: The Park family rolling around the floor wailing for Hyun-seo in an over-the-top fashion is already pretty funny, but while this is going on, a woman is being reprimanded for not parking her car correctly.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: Nam-il gets a bottle broken on his head by a hobo.
- Gory Discretion Shot: When the monster goes to eat Hyun-seo and Se-joo, it cuts to black while Hyun-seo's scream echoes.
- During the initial rampage, quite a few people try to hide in a large trailer. The monster then busts into the trailer. All you see are bloody arms scrabbling at the locked door at the other end, and blood seeping through the floor of the trailer.
- Half the Man He Used to Be: What happened to Mr. Yoon's body after he jumped into the river.
- Headphones Equal Isolation: When the monster first attacks, we see a girl playing with a bobby pin listening to orchestral music with headphones completely oblivious to the mayhem around her. When someone runs by her, she turns around and gets taken away by the monster.
- Heavy Sleeper: Gang-du's lack of protein when he was young, due to Parental Neglect, turned him into something of a narcoleptic. Nam-il gets annoyed with this while the family is sheltering in the gymnasium and starts prodding Gang-du with his foot, but Gang-du doesn't stir.
- Heartwarming Orphan: Se-joo, who is ridiculously cute.
- Hobo: One of whom is a Deliberately Cute Child. Seriously, there's a montage of him discussing what kind of food he'd like to eat while generally being adorable.
- Homage: The idea of a giant monster carrying an even-more-dangerous disease was originally used in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
- Hope Spot: When Hyun-seo runs up the monster's back and grabs the clothes rope to climb up it... and gets grabbed by the monster's tail.
- Idiot Hero: Gang-du. He becomes a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass on occasion, though.
- Improbable Weapon User: Gang-du gets increasingly skilled with a stop sign. He even gets the killshot by impaling it in the mouth with the end of a broken sign.
- It's All About Me: The Americans are entirely motivated by playing hero and looking good due to a firm belief in their own superiority, completely uncaring of how their attempts to kill the monster are affecting the South Koreans, and they try to lobotomies Gang-du so that the truth of the virus (that it doesn’t exist) doesn’t get out, so they can keep the South Korean government distracted while they look good for the cameras.
- Jerkass: The American military pathologist who has the formaldehyde dumped into the river, creating the monster, because the bottles were dusty, and the reason he wants them to be dumped into the river in spite of his Korean assistant’s protests is that “The river is broad. Let’s try to be broad minded about this.” and “because I said so.”
- Jerkass Has a Point: Nam-joo considers that they abandon Gang-du and go after the monster themselves. While it is callous of them to abandon their brother, who can't help being the way he is, he does soon accidentally get their father killed by the monster.
- Jump Scare: A few noteworthy examples.
- When a hazmat worker finds money near the bridge, he turns around and suddenly comes face-to-face with the beast, who swings into view to kill him and his co-workers.
- Hyun-seo and See-joo hide in a hole as they hear the monster enters its lair. When things go quiet, Hyun-seo takes a peek to see if the coast is clear... only to be greeted by the monster's enormous roaring face.
- Finally, the monster's roar can be heard at the end of the credits. Just when you thought you were safe!
- The Klutz: Gang-du is always tripping over something. Tragically, it gets his daughter taken by the monster.
- Nam-il is just as clumsy, even though he criticizes Gang-du for his own clumsiness.
- Manchild: Gang-du is sensitive, immature and impulsive. The US surgeon operating on him even gives him a patronising pat on the head after trying to find out what's wrong with him and then choosing not to listen to anything.
- Media Scaremongering: The movie is a satirical deconstruction of this. Giant tadpole running around Seoul, eating people? It must be carrying A HIDEOUS NEW DISEASE! Let us completely focus on this possibility, and ignore the fact that it's eating people!
- Mighty Whitey: An American soldier bravely steps up to help people escape the monster and tries to fight it off, getting mauled in the process. This was probably included to soften the anti-American message, although even when he saves Gang-du he doesn't seem to push him out of the way on purpose.
- Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Said American soldier, named Donald White, has a Korean girlfriend.
- Militaries Are Useless: The only thing they're able to do is paralyse the monster with "Agent Yellow". In the end, it takes the collective efforts of the Park siblings to bring it down.
- Missing Mom: Both Gang-du and Hyun-seo's mothers. Hyun-seo's mother is explicitly mentioned as having run away right after giving birth.
- Nap-Inducing Speak: Hee-bong's speech about Gang-du has this effect on Nam-il and Nam-joo.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Gang-du's clumsiness and impulsive nature cost him the lives of his daughter and his father, which he feels absolutely terrible about.
- Nice, Mean, and In-Between: The Park siblings: Gang-du (nice), Nam-il (mean) and Nam-joo (in-between).
- No Name Given: The hobo that Nam-il befriends' name is never revealed.
- Non-Malicious Monster: The creature is basically just an animal that wants to find shelter and eat. Unfortunately for everyone involved however, its shelter happens to be within a populated city along the Han River and it eats people, a lot of people.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The entire South Korean government is composed of idiotic bureaucrats who are more concerned with containing a non-existent virus and inconveniencing the Park family and the civilians in danger than actually trying to stop the monster.
- Oh, Crap!: Early on, a crowd of people, including Gang-du, are chatting at the riverside about the monster. Amidst the chatting crowd, Gang-du suddenly gets a Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises look at something offscreen. Shortly thereafter, we the audience see it too - the Fifty Foot Whatever galloping right at them. Cue the screaming and the running (not that it does anybody any good). He does it again when he realizes that Hyun-seo is entirely alone out in the open, and the monster is galloping right at her.
- Later Gang-du realizes he's in trouble in the middle of admitting that he got some of the monster's blood sprayed on his face.
- One Bullet Left: Subverted. Hee-bong takes the gun from Gang-du thinking that it has one bullet left. When Hee-bong goes to fire at the monster, all he hears is an empty click. It then cuts to Gang-du counting on his fingers and realizing the mistake he's made as Hee-bong is killed.
- Overly-Long Gag:
- Gang-du's family mourns the loss of Hyun-seo, and won't stop crying!
- Also when the creature starts regurgitating all the bodies it's been eating. You wonder how it could hold all that in there.
- Papa Wolf:
- Gang-du, although sadly his daughter is dead by then.
- Hee-bong flips out spectacularly when Gang-du, his firstborn son, jumps into the river to go after the monster, and later tries to protect Gang-du when he is pulled away from him by men in decontamination suits and zipped up in a bag.
- Parental Abandonment: Hyun-seo's mother left after she was born, and she spends most of the movie trying to reunite with her father. Gang-du himself is a victim of this: his mother has been gone since his childhood, and his father (though now very sorry) didn't take very good care of him.
- The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Hee-bong's passwords are all "1234", which gives the people who supply him with the map and the van an easy time.
- Playing Possum:
- When Hee-bong shoots the monster, it falls over onto its back and stops moving; he and his sons go to get a closer look, but Nam-il shoots at it again to Make Sure He's Dead, at which point the monster immediately gets up and attempts to flee.
- Hyun-seo plays dead among the bodies in the monster's lair whenever it comes back to avoid being killed. Eventually the monster realizes she's just faking and pretends to be asleep when she attempts to escape to lure her out where it can get her.
- Please Wake Up: Gang-du to Hee-bong after he gets killed by the monster.
- Plot Armor: The monster has Gang-du dead to rights early in the rampage, but it simply runs over him on the way to other victims. He then repeatedly gets in the monster's way, or simply whacks it with something, and survives entirely unscathed.
- Plucky Girl: Hyun-seo when she's trapped in the sewer. In captivity she tries numerous times to find ways to escape from the monster.
- Prehensile Tail: Used by the fish-monster to climb and to carry off victims.
- Product Placement: A few brands, including Disney products, can be seen on the snack stand at the beginning of the film.
- Promotion to Parent: Se-joo is raised by his older brother Se-jin.
- Hyun-seo also takes on this role when the little boy is dropped into the sewer with her.
- Reckless Gun Usage: Nam-il keeps pointing the barrel of his shotgun at objects (and people). In one scene, he pointed and thrust the shotgun at Gang-du's head while Gang-du went into one of his narcoleptic timeouts.
- Say My Name: A small portion of Gang-du's lines are just "HYUN-SEO!" Particularly notable is when he howls her name several times after finding her jacket in the creature's lair, and she's nowhere to be found. Nam-joo and Nam-il also both call her name at the gymnasium scene.
- White's girlfriend repeatedly shrieks, "DONALD!" while he and Gang-du are fighting the Kaiju.
- Schmuck Bait: A man finds a bill of money on the side of the river. It was just what the creature needed to catch him.
- Silence Is Golden: Some of the scenes in the movie are completely silent.
- The scene where the monster first takes Hyun-seo and dives back into the river is completely silent.
- The scene when Hyun-seo and Se-joo hide from the monster in the sewers, at which point it starts throwing up a huge load of bones.
- Slow-Motion Fall: Mr. Yoon falling to his death is shown this way.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: A lot of scenes that should be dramatic are completely ruined by unfitting orchestral music.
- The chase scene, for example.
- The scene where the monster is on fire screeching and trying to run towards water.
- Space Whale Aesop: Don't dump toxic chemicals into the river... or a giant monster will come out and eat your people.
- Stealing from the Till: Gang-du. He's not even very good at it; he takes loose change from the till to try and save up for a new phone for Hyun-seo.
- Surrounded by Idiots / See You in Hell: Pretty much Mr. Yoon's last words before he jumps off the bridge.
- Sympathy for the Devil: Gang-du has a brief, subtle moment of unspoken pity for the monster as he kills it, as though he didn't like doing it, but he had to because it killed his father and his daughter.
- Tap on the Head: Nam-il gets an empty bottle smashed on his head by the vagrant who let him sleep on one of his blankets after he wanders off to try and fight the monster.
- The Virus: It turns out that there is no virus and the whole thing was mass hysteria. Unlike in Monster a-Go Go, however, there undeniably was a monster.
- Took a Level in Badass: Gang-du starts attacking the monster with a sign when it first charges out of the water, and he goes into Action Dad territory whenever he gets a chance to try and save his daughter. It is implied that the brain surgery he is forced into partway through the movie accidentally fixes whatever was wrong with him, making him much more capable.
- Hyun-seo becomes braver and more resourceful as the movie goes on.
- Toxic Waste Can Do Anything: The movie uses this twice. First, a specific chemical, formaldehyde (known to being a carcinogen), creates a rhino-sized fish/running monster that can move incredibly fast and shrugs off bullets. Secondly, the US government tries to kill it with ANOTHER toxic chemical, Agent Yellow (which is probably a reference to Agent Orange ). It WORKS...a little. It doesn't mutate the creature into a stronger form and it clearly doesn't like it, but it doesn't kill it or render it much less dangerous, forcing the main characters to Kill It with Fire and add some impaling on top of that.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In fact, there's a particularly glorifying scene of the monster vomiting a shower of bones.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Nam-il and Nam-joo's fates aren't learned after the creature is killed.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Nam-il calls out Gang-du in the gymnasium shelter for letting Hyun-seo be captured.Nam-il:(shoving Gang-du) YOU GRABBED ANOTHER LITTLE GIRL'S HAND? (He kicks his brother) YOU CALL YOURSELF A FATHER? A F***ING FATHER?!Gang-du:(bawling) I THOUGHT IT WAS HYUN-SEO'S HAND!!
- White-and-Grey Morality: The Park family, though a Dysfunctional Family, is ultimately a loving one, and Gang-du himself is sweet if irresponsible. The creature they're battling is nothing more than a mutated tadpole with simple motivations of food and shelter, although sometimes it plays dirty with catching its prey.
- Writer on Board: Although it manages not to derail the plot.