A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that creature-feature loving teens will want to see this movie, subtitles or no. If they go, they'll see plenty of scenes of the half-fish, half-reptile monster chasing, attacking, eating, and ripping up its human victims (its lair is filled with corpses and bones). In fact, the CGI-heavy violence is so excessive that it ends up being somewhat comedic. Humans use a variety of weapons against the monster (and each other), including guns, arrows (some flaming), and gas. The government lies about a virus and then assaults demonstrators with a toxic gas called "Agent Yellow." Some mourning scenes show characters crying over lost loved ones. Subtitled swearing includes multiple uses of "f--k" and plenty more salty language.
What's the story?
A sinister U.S. military pathologist (Scott Wilson) instructs a minion to dump formaldehyde into South Korean waters. This act produces a ghastly mutation -- part fish, part reptile -- that emerges from a river in broad daylight and attacks a crowd, killing some and kidnapping others. Among the abductees is 11-year-old Hyun-seo (Ah-sung Ko). At first, her family -- including her father, Gang-Du (Kang-ho Song), and grandfather Hie-bong (Hie-bong Byeon) -- grieve along with other similarly afflicted Seoul citizens. Carted off and quarantined for possible monster contamination, Gang-Du is despondent until he gets a cell-phone call from his daughter, who describes the place where the monster has dumped her as a "really big sewer." With that, Gang-Du -- with help from his father, unemployed brother Nam-il (Hae-il Park), and champion archer sister Nam-Joo (Du-na Bae) -- sets off to find her, no matter what lies the government tells them.
Is it any good?
The top-grossing movie in South Korean history, THE HOST (Gwoemul) is a wild, rewarding ride that's equal parts creature feature, cautionary tale, family melodrama, and political critique. Its influences are many, from Godzilla, Jaws, and Alien to The Thing and Sally Mann's photographs.
While the Parks' adventure follows some conventions (family bickering and bonding, inscrutable monstrosity, institutional obstructions), Joon-ho Bong's film offers all sorts of brilliant visual surprises. Hyun-seo and her family are courageous. Looking small in her schoolgirl's plaid skirt, the girl makes her way through the shadowy underground, her face smudged with grime, determined to combat the creature as it threatens a very frightened younger boy. At once poignant and grim, she's a terrific young heroine.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about monster movies. What's the appeal of creature features like this one?\ Families can also talk about the Parks' bravery. What brings them together with unity and purpose?
How does the movie update and also pay homage to classic monster movies that warn against human carelessness and arrogance, like Godzilla?
Are the characters in this movie being warned against anything? What could the creature be a symbol of?
How does Hyun-seo become a hero in the film, rather than only a victim?
For kids who love A little wit with their monsters
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.