By Cynthia Fuchs,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
South Korean creature feature is wild and witty.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The central family counters the officials' deceit and oppression with displays of courage, loyalty, and intelligence; homeless kids and man are brave in the face of danger.
Positive Role Models
Korean and U.S. officials (police, media, medical, military) commit illegal acts and/or engage in cover-up;
Violence & Scariness
Multiple attacks by monster. It chases, terrifies, eats/chomps, throws/drops, and dismembers human victims; dog attacks owner; suspected infection victims are dragged off in plastic bags (resembling body bags); humans fight monster and each other with guns; brief scene shows brain surgery (some cutting and drilling); Nam-joo shoots monster with arrows; homeless man pours gasoline on monster so flaming arrow can light it on fire; children confront monster in sewer (dark shadows, tense moments, brave kids); memorial services and mourning; sad scene showing a child's death.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief reference to an ex-wife who "popped out the baby and ran off" brief shot of girls' legs under a table.
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In subtitles: several uses of "f--k," plus other language ("s--t," "god damn," "bastard," and "bitch"), as well as "Jesus Christ."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Homeless man is drunk on soju (Korean rice-based alcoholic beverage).
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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.
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Where to Watch
Based on 4 parent reviews
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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?
- In theaters: March 8, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: July 24, 2007
- Cast: Ah-sung Ko, Kang-ho Song, Doona Bae
- Director: Joon-ho Bong
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: creature violence and language
- Last updated: June 1, 2023
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