The Host (2006 film)

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The Host
The Host film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Revised Romanization Gwoemul
McCune–Reischauer Koemul
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Produced by Choi Yong-bae
Written by Baek Chul-hyun
Bong Joon-ho
Starring Song Kang-ho
Byun Hee-bong
Park Hae-il
Bae Doona
Go Ah-sung
Music by Lee Byung-woo
Cinematography Kim Hyung-koo
Edited by Kim Sun-min
Chungeorahm Film
Sego Entertainment
Distributed by Showbox (SK)
Magnolia Pictures (US)
Release dates
  • July 27, 2006 (2006-07-27)
Running time
119 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Budget ₩11.8 billion
(US$11 million)
Box office US$89,106,383[1]

The Host (Hangul괴물; RRGwoemul; lit. "Monster") is a 2006 South Korean monster film, directed by Bong Joon-ho and starring Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona and Go Ah-sung.

The movie concerns a monster kidnapping a man's daughter, and his attempts to rescue her. According to the director, his inspiration came from a local article about a deformed fish with an S-shaped spine caught in Han River.[2] The Host had set a new Korean box office record by reaching 10 million tickets in just 21 days. In addition, it was ranked one of the top films of 2007 on Metacritic with a score of 85. In November 2008, it was announced that Universal Studios would be remaking The Host.

Following the success of the director's work Memories of Murder, The Host was heavily anticipated.[3] It was released on a record number of screens in its home country on July 27, 2006. By the end of its run on November 8, 13 million tickets had been sold, making it (at the time) the highest grossing South Korean film of all time.[4] The film was released on a limited basis in the United States on March 9, 2007, and on DVD, Blu-ray, and HD DVD formats on July 24, 2007. It won several awards including Best Film at the Asian Film Awards and at the Blue Dragon Film Awards.

Plot summary[edit]

In late 2000, an American military pathologist commands a reluctant Korean assistant to violate protocol by dumping over 200 bottles of formaldehyde down a drain leading into the Han River. Over the next few years, there are sightings of a strange amphibious creature in the waterway, and the fish in the Han River are dying off because of water pollution. A suicidal businessman, just before jumping off a bridge into the river, sees something dark moving under the surface of the water.

Six years later, in Seoul, Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) is a seemingly slow-witted man who runs a small snack-bar with his father, Hee-bong (Byun Hee-bong). Also with him is his daughter, Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung), his sister, Nam-joo (Bae Doona), a national medalist archer, and his brother, Nam-il (Park Hae-il), a heavy drinking unemployed college graduate and former political activist.

While Gang-du is delivering food to some customers, he sees a crowd along the Han River. They witness a huge creature hanging from the Wonhyo Bridge, which then jumps into the water. At first, it seems as though the creature has swum away, encouraging the public to bait it back with food. Moments later, the creature rises out of the river and runs amok. After the creature causes chaos and kills a number of people, Gang-du and an American man attempt to kill the creature with a metal pole. They succeed only in angering it; the American is seriously injured, and the creature starts pursuing Gang-du. Gang-du grabs the hand of a girl whom he believes to be Hyun-seo and starts to flee. When he realizes he isn't holding Hyun-seo, he turns to see the creature running towards her. The creature then snatches Hyun-seo and dives back into the river.

During a mass funeral for the victims of the creature, government representatives and the American military arrive and forcefully quarantine all those who have been in direct contact with the creature, including Gang-du and his family. The Korean government announces that the creature is not only a direct danger, but also the host of a deadly, unknown virus as the American (who lost an arm to the creature) is discovered to be infected with it.

Gang-du is quarantined at a hospital, where he receives a phone call from Hyun-seo, who is not dead but trapped somewhere in the sewers by the creature. She is cut off when her phone battery runs out. Gang-du tries to explain this to others, but his protests go ignored by all except his family. The four of them decide to escape the hospital to track down Hyun-seo. Hee-bong buys a truck, weapons, and a map of the sewers, so they are prepared for the search.

Meanwhile two brothers, Se-jin and Se-joo, are searching for food when they are attacked by the creature. They attempt to flee but are both swallowed by the creature. It returns to the sewers where it regurgitates them, with only Se-Joo coming out alive. Hyun-seo sees that Se-Joo is alive and they both hide out of sight from the creature.

While Gang-Du and his family are eating and talking at their snack bar they are attacked by the creature. They fire at it, but quickly run out of ammunition. Gang-du, believing he has a shell left in his shotgun, gives his gun to his father, at his request, so that he can attempt to hold off the creature, buying his family some time to escape. As Hee-bong is about to fire, Gang-du realizes he has miscounted his shots, and that his shotgun is empty. Hee-bong is attacked and killed by the creature. Gang-du runs back to his father, but the Army and scientists arrive and capture Gang-du. Nam-il and Nam-joo are able to hide but are separated from each other while Gang-Du is taken away, screaming in agony over his father's death.

Nam-il attempts to get help tracing the location of Hyun-seo's phone call from a friend, who tells him that the government has placed a bounty on his and his family's heads. The friend then betrays Nam-il for the bounty, but Nam-il manages to obtain Hyun-seo's general location from cell phone records, evade capture by the police and flee the scene. He texts the location to Nam-joo and Gang-du.

As Nam-joo is searching through the sewers, she comes across the creature and tries to attack it with her bow. She hesitates to take a shot, believing she will miss, and the creature knocks her into a hole, knocking her unconscious. The creature, unable to reach her in the hole, continues running through the sewers.

After being placed in a special medical facility, Gang-du is interrogated by two scientists. Interpreting his ravings about his still-alive daughter as a product of infection by the virus, they decide to operate on his brain in an effort to extract a sample—a procedure they deem necessary as until now they have found no actual trace of any virus. After the operation, however, Gang-du manages to break free. Taking one of the nurses hostage with a syringe of his supposedly infected blood, he escapes to continue his search for his daughter.

Meanwhile, Nam-il wakes up the next morning with a homeless man (Yoon Je-moon) sitting next to him, who knows about the quarantine but decided to stay put. After talking about the creature and Nam-il's situation, they join together to find Hyun-seo and kill the creature.

Back in the sewers, while the creature is sleeping, Hyun-seo ties together clothes from the bodies of the dead to create a rope. She successfully latches the makeshift rope to the top of the drain but while she attempts to jump up to the rope she is caught by the creature. The creature, still feigning sleep, gently puts Hyun-seo back on the ground. Terrified, Hyun-seo slowly attempts to hide but the creature leaps at her and Se-joo and swallows them both.

The government announces a plan to release a harmful chemical called Agent Yellow into the river and the surrounding area, hoping it will kill the creature. The population around Han River is devastated and organize a protest against this.

Gang-du finally finds the location in the sewers where the creature had kept Hyun-seo, but the creature and Hyun-seo are not there. As Gang-du climbs down into the sewer the monster passes over him. He sees Hyun-seo's arm hanging out of the creature's mouth and chases after it. As Gang-du is running after the creature he comes across Nam-joo and they go after it together as it heads toward the protest. As Nam-il and the homeless man arrive at the protest, and as the creature attacks, Agent Yellow is released. Agent Yellow appears to hurt the creature but doesn't kill it. As the creature is lying on the ground, Gang-du sees Hyun-seo in its mouth. He pulls her and Se-joo out, but Hyun-seo is revealed to have died clutching Se-joo, who is still alive.

In a fit of rage, Gang-du attacks the creature with a metal pole but is knocked to the ground. Nam-il and the homeless man come to Gang-du's aid. While Nam-il throws Molotov cocktails at the creature, the homeless man climbs to a platform above the creature and pours petrol onto it. But as Nam-il goes to throw his last bottle to ignite the creature, he drops it. Nam-joo picks up the flaming cloth from the bottle with one of her arrows and fires it at the creature, hitting it in its eye. The creature bursts into flames and attempts to run to the Han river. Gang-du appears from behind one of the bridges pillars, with the metal pole in hand, and impales the creature in its mouth, finally killing it. As Nam-il and Nam-joo hold Hyun-seo, mourning her death, Gang-du walks over to Se-joo and picks him up, taking him to safety.

Time passes and Gang-du is living with Se-joo in his food stand. At night, Gang-du believes he sees something in the distance, picks up a rifle, but then realizes it was nothing. Gang-du and Se-joo sit down to have something to eat, while a news broadcast about the monster attack plays on the TV. The film ends with Se-joo asking Gang-du to turn the TV off so they can concentrate on eating.




The film was the third feature-length film directed by Bong Joon-ho. Following the positive reaction to the director's debut, Barking Dogs Never Bite, coupled with the critical acclaim and box-office success of his previous work, Memories of Murder, the film was given a generous production budget of around ₩10 billion[5] (just over US$10 million), huge by local industry standards.[6]


Some of the filming took place in the real sewers near the Han River, rather than on a set. The stars and crew were inoculated against tetanus by the medical officer. During filming, the crew had to deal with the effects of changes in weather and ambient temperature. This including the sewage water freezing in cold temperatures, so that it had to be broken up and melted; and during hot and windy periods, the water evaporated and the silt turned to dust, which blew around in the breeze and into the faces of the crew.[7]

Special effects[edit]

The director had to work around the budget-imposed restrictions, especially when it came to special effects. The creature was designed by Chin Wei-chen, the modeling was done by New Zealand-based Weta Workshop and the animatronics were by John Cox's creature Workshop.[8] The CGI for the film was done by The Orphanage, which also did some of the visual effects in The Day After Tomorrow.[9]

The monster was designed with some specific parameters in mind. According to the director himself the inspiration came from a local article about a deformed fish with an S-shaped spine caught in the Han River.[10] Therefore, the director's wishes were for it to look like an actual mutated fish-like creature, rather than have a more fantastical design. In the opening scenes of the film, two fishermen presumably encounter the creature whilst it is still small enough to fit in one of their cups; suggestive of its humble, more realistic origins. The monster also exhibits frontal limbs similar to amphibians' legs. This element of its design seems to have been more a choice of functionality on the designers' part as the monster needed to be able to run and perform certain acrobatic movements during the film.[8] For a genre film monster, the creature's size is rather small, only about the size of a truck. Also unlike in many other monster-themed films, the creature is fully visible from early on in the film, sometimes for large stretches of time and even in broad daylight, which earned the film some critical praise.[11]

Political background[edit]

The film was in part inspired by an incident in 2000 in which a Korean mortician working for the U.S. military in Seoul dumped a large amount of formaldehyde down the drain. In addition to its environmental concerns, this caused some antagonism toward the United States.[12] The American military stationed in South Korea is portrayed as uncaring about the effects their activities have on the locals. The chemical agent used by the American military to combat the monster in the end, named "Agent Yellow" in a thinly-veiled reference to Agent Orange, was also used to satirical effect.[8] The director, Bong Joon-ho, commented on the issue: "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."[13]

Because of its themes, which can be seen as critical of the United States, the film was lauded by North Korean authorities,[14] a rarity for a South Korean blockbuster film.

The film features a satiric portrayal of the South Korean government as bureaucratic, inept, and essentially uncaring. Korean youth protesters are featured satirically in the film, in a mixed way, partially heroic and partially self-righteous and oblivious. According to Bong Joon-ho, the Park Nam-il character is a deliberate anachronism, a reference to South Korea's troubled political history, which involved violent protest. "When you look in terms of this character, it's sort of like the feeling of time going backwards. [...] You could say that he is the image of the college protester back ten years ago; it doesn't exist in the present day."[15]


The Host premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2006 and was released nationally in South Korea on July 27, 2006. Having been heavily hyped and featuring one of the most popular leading actors in the country, Song Kang-ho, the film was released on a record number of screens and made the South Korean record books with its box office performance during its opening weekend. The 2.63 million admissions and US$17.2 million box office revenue easily beat the previous records set by Typhoon.[16][17] The film reached six million viewers on August 6, 2006.[18] In early September the film became South Korea's all time box office leader, selling more than 12.3 million tickets in just over a month in a country of 48.5 million. By the end of its run on November 8, the viewing figures came in at 13,019,740.[6]

The film was released theatrically in Australia on August 17, 2006. During the first half of September 2006, it premiered in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong. It received a theatrical release in the United Kingdom on November 10, 2006. This was its first official release outside of film festivals, and outside Asia and Australia. Its American release was March 9, 2007. It was or is planned to be released in several other countries; among them are France, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, and Spain.

The Host received screenings on several film festivals. In addition to its opening in Cannes, among the most prominent were the Toronto, Tokyo and New York film festivals. The film swept Korea's Blue Dragon Awards : The Host received five awards, Go Ah-sung took Best New Actress and Byun Hee-bong was awarded as Best Supporting Actor.[19]

The French film magazine Cahiers du cinéma ranked the film as 3rd place in its list of best films of the year 2006[20] and 4th for the 2000-2009 decade.[21] The Japanese film magazine Kinema Junpo selected it as one of the top 10 best foreign films of the year 2006. (Flags of Our Fathers won the best foreign film of the year 2006.)[22]

With a limited American release starting March 11, 2007, The Host received critical acclaim, with a 93% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[23] In addition, it was ranked one of the top films of 2007 on Metacritic with a score of 85 out of 100.[24] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote "The Host is a loopy, feverishly imaginative genre hybrid about the demons that haunt us from without and within."[25] The filmmaker Quentin Tarantino included it in his list of top 20 films released since 1992 (the year he became a director).[26] The film was also listed at #81 on Empire Magazine's list of The 100 Best Films of World Cinema.[27]

Top ten lists[edit]

The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.[28]

Awards and nominations[edit]

2006 Asia Pacific Film Festival[29][30]
  • Best Supporting Actor - Byun Hee-bong
  • Best Editing - Kim Sun-min
  • Best Sound - Choi Tae-young
2006 Chunsa Film Art Awards
  • Best Lighting - Lee Kang-san
  • Technical Award - Jang Hwi-cheol
2006 Blue Dragon Film Awards
  • Best Film
  • Best Supporting Actor - Byun Hee-bong
  • Best New Actress - Go Ah-sung
  • Best Lighting - Lee Kang-san, Jung Young-min
  • Audience Choice Award for Most Popular Film
  • Technical Award - The Orphanage, EON (CG)
  • Nomination - Best Director - Bong Joon-ho
  • Nomination - Best Actor - Song Kang-ho
  • Nomination - Best Supporting Actress - Bae Doona
  • Nomination - Best Screenplay - Bong Joon-ho
  • Nomination - Best Cinematography - Kim Hyung-koo
2006 Korean Film Awards
  • Best Film
  • Best Director - Bong Joon-ho
  • Best Cinematography - Kim Hyung-koo
  • Best Visual Effects - The Orphanage, EON
  • Best Sound - Choi Tae-young
  • Nomination - Best Supporting Actress - Go Ah-sung
  • Nomination - Best Art Direction - Ryu Seong-hee
  • Nomination - Best Music - Lee Byung-woo
2006 Director's Cut Awards
2007 Asian Film Awards
2007 Hong Kong Film Awards
  • Nomination - Best Asian Film
2007 Baeksang Arts Awards
2007 Saturn Awards
  • Nomination - Best International Film
  • Nomination - Best Performance by a Younger Actor - Go Ah-sung
2007 Grand Bell Awards
  • Best Director - Bong Joon-ho
  • Best Editing - Kim Sun-min
  • Nomination - Best Film
  • Nomination - Best Actor - Song Kang-ho
  • Nomination - Best Supporting Actor - Byun Hee-bong
  • Nomination - Best Supporting Actress - Go Ah-sung
  • Nomination - Best Cinematography - Kim Hyung-koo
  • Nomination - Best Visual Effects - The Orphanage, EON
  • Nomination - Best Sound - Lee Seung-chul, Choi Tae-young
2007 Busan Film Critics Awards
  • Jury Prize
2008 Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics

Western media[edit]

The region-2 UK release of the film was released on March 5, 2007, while the region-1 US DVD was released on July 24, 2007, in both single-disc and a two-disc collector's edition in DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats.[31]

Video game[edit]

Twitch Film announced on November 3, 2009 that a video game was planned,[32] it will be released as a multi-platform first-person shooter.[33] As of 2014, it's not yet released, and possibly cancelled.


In June 2007, it was announced that a 3D prequel was in progress, with a different director.[34][35] The budget for The Host 2 has been set at close to US$12 million, and will be based on a script by webcomic artist Kang Full.[36][37]


In November 2008, it was announced that Universal Studios would be remaking The Host with Gore Verbinski producing, Mark Poirier writing the script, and first-time director Fredrik Bond directing the film. The film was set for a 2011 release.[38] As of November 2012, however, there were no updates on the remake's production.


  1. ^ "The Host (2007)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
  2. ^ Yang, Seung-cheol (16 July 2006). "That river creature is his baby: Meet the maker of Host". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  3. ^ "PRESS SCREENING: 괴물 (The Host)". Twitch Film. 7 July 2006. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  4. ^ As of April 2015, it ranks as third.
  5. ^ "Bong Joon-Ho Talks 괴물 (The Host)". Twitch Film. 26 July 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  6. ^ a b "The Host". Retrieved 2007-01-12.
  7. ^ The Host DVD (additional features) (DVD). Optimum Home Entertainment. 2007. 
  8. ^ a b c Scott Weinberg (13 September 2006). "TIFF Interview: The Host Director Bong Joon-ho". Cinematical. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  9. ^ Barbara Robertson (27 July 2006). "Oh Strange Horrors!". CGSociety. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  10. ^ Giuseppe Sedia (October 2007). "An Interview with Bong Joon-ho". Retrieved 2009-11-23.
  11. ^ Adam Nayman. "The Host ...With the Most". Reverse Shot. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  12. ^ Jon Herskovitz (7 September 2006). "South Korean movie monster gobbles up box office". Reuters. Retrieved 2006-11-02. 
  13. ^ Heejin Koo (7 September 2006). "Korean filmmakers take center stage to bash trade talks". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  14. ^ "North Korea lauds S. Korean movie The Host for anti-American stance". Yonhap News. 16 November 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  15. ^ "The Host: Monstrous Political Satire". Hollywood Gothique Daily Journal. 7 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  16. ^ Mark Schilling, Darcy Paquet (31 July 2006). "Host with the most". Variety. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  17. ^ "The Host Stomps to Multiple Box Office Records". The Chosun Ilbo. 31 July 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  18. ^ Kim Tae-jong (6 August 2006). "Host Breaks 6-Million-Viewer Mark". The Korea Times via Hancinema. Retrieved 2006-08-07. 
  19. ^ "The 27th Blue Dragon Awards". Korea Society. Retrieved 2007-01-12.
  20. ^ "Palmarès 2006". Cahiers du cinéma. Retrieved 2007-01-12.
  21. ^ Cahiers du cinéma #652, january 2010.
  22. ^ Yang Sung-jin (16 January 2007). "Director hosts new standard". The Brunei Times. Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
  23. ^ "The Host". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-03-26.
  24. ^ "Highest and Lowest Scoring Movies". Metacritic. Retrieved 2007-01-25.
  25. ^ Manohla Dargis (9 March 2007). "It Came From the River, Hungry for Humans (Burp)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-29. 
  26. ^ "Quentin Tarantino's Top 20 Favorite Films". Comcast. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  27. ^ The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema | 81. The Host | Empire. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  28. ^ "Metacritic: 2007 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  29. ^ "The Host - Awads". Cinemasie. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  30. ^ "The Host (2006) - Awards". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  31. ^ "Cover Art and Press Release for THE HOST DVDs". SciFi Japan. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
  32. ^ Matt Serafini (3 November 2009). "The Host 2 Becomes a Video Game". Dread Central. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  33. ^ "The Host Being Developed as a Video Game". Bloody Disgusting. 3 November 2009. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  34. ^ Yi Chang-ho (25 January 2007). "Chungeorahm Announces The Host Sequel". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  35. ^ Nigel D'Sa (23 January 2008). "The Host 2 Prequel to Feature Multiple Monsters". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  36. ^ Darcy Paquet (28 February 2008). "Korean film industry hot for sequels". Variety. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
  37. ^ Park Soo-mee (23 October 2010). "3D Release Eyed For Host Sequel". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  38. ^ Alex Billington (18 November 2008). "Gore Verbinski Producing The Host Remake for Universal". Retrieved 2013-09-05. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
Blue Dragon Film Award for Best Film
Succeeded by
The Show Must Go On