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Villain Overview

In a word, her birth was an accident… and so was her death. Old people have always said that an animal which kills a human should be torn limb from limb. That it's a human's duty to do so. Until I slit that beast's stomach… and at least find Hyun-seo's body… I'll never leave this world in peace.
~ Park Hee-bong swearing to avenge his granddaughter.

Gwoemul (in Korean: 괴물, lit: "Monster") is the titular main antagonist of the 2006 South Korean monster film of the same name (released internationally as The Host). It is a mutated fish-like creature created out of dumped formaldehyde. After attacking the people on the surface, it was said to be a host for an extremely contagious virus, although this claim was later shown to be fabricated to hide its origins.

Its vocal sound effects were provided by Oh Dal-su.

Biology[]

Similarly to a fish, Gwoemul breathes oxygen through gills located behind its mouth, although it is able to move on land. Because of this, Gwoemul adapts more towards living in water, as it can swim quite fast even when holding something, while on land it often stumbles as it walks. It can climb and move around well above the ground thanks to stability from its tail, which it can also use to grab prey in a hurry.

It traps humans in its mouth and regurgitates their bodies out into a moist enclosed area to consume them later or just to trap them and leave them to die from injuries or starvation, in the film's case, a deep sewer pit only it can climb out of. It also uses its tongue to lick on the regurgitated bodies to check their pulse, finishing off anyone who moves. After its prey is fully consumed, it vomits out their bones, or anything else hard or metallic, as it is apparently unable to decompose anything but organic flesh. Its blood is black in color.

Appearance[]

Gwoemul has a gray tadpole-like design with a segmented jaw that can open in mandibles surrounded in teeth, along with gills, two eyes (with a massive overgrowth along its right eye), a long whip-like tongue that it tucks inside the opening of its mouth, two rows of fins on its tail, and feet with two short arms located directly behind them. It also has four fin-like appendages located where its hind legs should be, although it does not need to use them as it can stabilize itself with its forelimbs.

Gwoemul's most noticeable features are the three fish stuck on its back to show its mutational side. During the climax, the fish fall out of the creature due to the Agent Yellow chemical and one is shown flopping on land; this means, by judging its mutated appearance, appears to have suffered the same mutated fate as Gwoemul and attached itself to a larger mutated organism and survived by either receiving nutrients from the source or slowly eating away at the host. Some of these fish are also seen in Gwoemul's sewer pit eating the bodies left by Gwoemul.

Personality[]

Gwoemul is an extremely dangerous creature that behaves like a feral animal, using its sheer power to hunt humans near the river, bringing them back to its lair in the sewers alive or not to feast on their bodies. While portrayed as a non-sapient predator, Gwoemul has enough intelligence to outsmart anything it considers prey. Quite possibly the most cunning trick that it does is to feign its sleep, so that it can ambush and finish off any captured prey that turned out to be still alive when brought to its lair.

However, despite its sadistic tendencies to inflict mayhem on humanity, Gwoemul can be seen as a troubled animal mutated as a result of man's actions against nature and is driven to kill only to avenge its suffering. All of its actions have been caused not by malevolence but by regular instinct, therefore it is unable to feel emotion for any of its actions.

Gwoemul is also shown to have a bizarre and unorthodox habit. Whenever it senses liquid splashing around it in the form of rain (whether or not the liquid actually is water), it will tilt its head back and catch the liquid in its mouth, gulping it down single-mindedly. In one instance the liquid was gasoline, but it continued to perform this strange ritual. Why it followed such an odd ritual may relate to the dumped formaldehyde that was completely responsible for its mutation; though unconfirmed, it is possible that when it was either a fish or tadpole, it drank the dumped chemical and upon realizing its effect, it became addicted with the said liquid and lost its focus on another. This strange habit proved to be its downfall, as the gasoline it consumes eventually set it on fire by the protagonists before being impaled to put it out of its misery.

Powers and Abilities[]

Due to the formaldehyde mixed into its body, Gwoemul obtained multiple abilities to enhance it into a strategic apex predator:

  • Physical strength: Although being a hybrid of a fish or amphibian (which normally cannot place more force against objects that overdue their mass), Gwoemul has no trouble pushing over anything standing in its way: from people, cars, and even a mobile trailer.
  • Resilience: Throughout the film, Gwoemul's thick skin is able to withstand multiple shotgun blasts (some at close range), slashed at with a metal pole, struck in the eye with an arrow, and set aflame both externally and internally after drinking gasoline. It was only finally killed when the same metal pole was impaled through its throat.
  • Immunity: The Agent Yellow chemical used in the film was made specifically to kill Gwoemul, but to no avail. From the secondary effects of the toxin, people nearest to the center are sickened to the point of coughing up blood, others pass out, whereas the creature was only temporarily stunned before getting back up as if nothing happened.
  • Agility: Despite its bulky appearance, Gwoemul can run very fast and can outrun anyone in a straight pattern even with only two legs supporting its weight. However, it tends to trip and tumble while turning.
  • Clutching feet: The pads that make up Gwoemul's legs are actually made up of two reptilian feet and a "webbed thumb" attached to each other up to the tarsus, allowing it to easily grasp and climb up walls with no problem.
  • Prehensile tail: Gwoemul can use its tail as an extra limb, allowing it to climb underneath a bridge with ease or grab something in a hurry.
  • Intelligence: Gwoemul tends to use tricks and tactics in order to ambush prey. Rather it be pretending to sleep, playing dead, or simply hiding from range, Gwoemul tends to always have the upper hand to lower its prey's guard. At one point, it uses a won bill as a tactic to ambush one of its victims.

Reception[]

While the film itself went on to become a critical and financial success, Gwoemul itself received praise from critics for its originality and small size compared to other giant monsters. Unlike many other monster-themed films, Gwoemul is fully seen at the beginning in the film, sometimes for long stretches of time or in broad daylight, which also earned the film some praise.

Trivia[]

  • Gwoemul's origin story is loosely inspired by a true event that occurred in 2000, in which a Korean undertaker working for the US military was forced to dump a large amount of formaldehyde down the drain leading to the Han River. Bong Joon-ho, the director of The Host, obtained inspiration for a movie monster following the controversy when a local article was published on a deformed fish with an S-shaped spine that was caught from the river.
  • While Gwoemul is never given a proper name in the film, outside of the film it is often nicknamed after the original title of the film Gwoemul, which is Korean for "Monster". While this name is occasionally used in the original South Korean film, it is unknown if this name or any other is used in any of the foreign language dubs.
    • Weta Workshop, the New Zealand special effects and prop company that created the modeling of Gwoemul, referred to the monster as Steve Buscemi.
  • Early concept art of Gwoemul shows that it was supposed to have a whole swarm of fish stuck in its back rather than the three used in the actual film.
  • The movie's popularity earned it a special status in its home country. Besides the Han river, which the movie's setting is near to, a statue of Gwoemul was erected.
  • Only two of Gwoemul's onscreen victims are killed without being devoured or dying while stored in its sewer pit; the two being Donald, who lost an arm during Gwoemul's rampage at the beginning of the film and later bled to death in the hospital (justified as Gang-du interrupted the assault by smashing the cement end of a street sign on Gwoemul's tail, driving its anger onto him), and Hee-bong, who was pinned to the ground and slammed upon sidewalk pavement by Gwoemul's tail, but strangely ignored by the creature who simply fled into the river after killing him. It might be possible that it fled upon detecting the approaching military before it could grab his corpse.
  • While it can be debated on what exact creature Gwoemul mutated from, some speculation suggests that it may have been an amphibian rather than a fish, given the creature's ability to walk and breathe on land. It is also possible that it may be a mixture of the two.
  • Gwoemul could be seen as symbolizing the mishandling of toxic chemicals and their effects on nature, similar to how Godzilla is a symbol for the use of nuclear weapons.
  • Gwoemul (under the name "Tadpole Thing") was ranked #10 on Cinemassacre's "Top 10 Giant Movie Monsters" list.
  • Three unreleased media were confirmed based on The Host to follow up the film's success, but none of them came into fruition.
    • A prequel was in development that would expand the origins of Gwoemul, possibly hinting that it may not be the only mutant from the formaldehyde dumping. While stating to be released in 2012, it has been confirmed cancelled as of 2019.
    • An American remake to The Host by Universal Pictures. Although it was set to be released in 2011, the film is currently stuck in development hell.
    • A video game adaptation was announced by Screen Anarchy (previously Twitch Film) in 2009 that would be a first-person shooter. No information on the project had since been released.
  • The Gwoemul can be easily dealt with conventional high caliber ammunitions so there is no need to use chemical weapons on it. The reason why the government is so ineffective in dealing with the monster is because the theme of the movie is to depict the incompetence and corruption of the government.
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