Let me make it clear that this freakish people eater isn’t underrated everywhere. In fact, when The Host came out in 2006, it became the highest grossing South Korean film ever. But when I mention the movie in the west, most people give me a blank look. And that’s a shame, because this beast is freakin’ awesome.
We all know how the story begins. Someone pours the wrong chemical into the sewer system, and nature coughs up a big dose of I told you so. The theme—humankind’s arrogance will be the end of us—isn’t that original. So why does the monster from The Host make the cut?
One, the design of the monster is over-the-top original. If you took a catfish, increased its size a thousandfold, gave it legs and the maw of Predator—oh, and a prehensile tail, don’t forget that—you have one of the most terrifying creatures to swim in the deep blue sea.
And unlike the weird lobster-tick-frog monster from Deep Star Six, the catfish monster registers immediately on the fear meter. Trust me, the first time this thing shows up on screen, you’ll spill your popcorn.
Two, this monster can hunt you on land. Most water monsters can’t chase their victims across playgrounds or parking lots. This restriction gives our survival stories some exciting “don’t go in the water” moments and feeds into our instinctive fear of dark, alien places like the sea. Our heroes usually end up perched on a raft or a few yards back on a deserted beach, thanking their stars and all things holy that they’re not IN THE WATER.
Enter the creature from The Host. It loves the water. But it also likes to hang like a bat from underneath bridges, and it loves to run with wild abandon through crowds (with its weird webbed feet) causing general destruction and mayhem. Your safe haven? Gone. If you learn anything from The Host, it’s that no place is safe.
And that’s what’s so brilliant about the monster’s design. Ugly catfish thing is our Frankenstein’s monster, the beast we created. When your species is the cause of so many catastrophic changes to your planet’s environment, such as, well, dumping billions of tons of toxic chemicals into the ocean, you can’t just go back to your trailer and hide.