Sci Fi Family Values
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"She's deceased, but she's not dead!" exclaims a desperate, albeit slow-witted, father seeking help from authorities to recover a daughter abducted by a giant mutant fish. The Host is a big box office hit in its home, South Korea, a side of the world that brought such classics as Godzilla. Here, you see, the government responds that tracing her cell phone is "not something we do for just anyone." Therein lies the real monster: a blind, self-serving bureaucracy that wouldn't know a real monster if it applied for a driver's license.
Drive it does, on its own, careening around the shores of the Han River in Seoul, eating and kidnapping at will in front of a horrified populace the authorities are protecting by searching out a virus rather than the monster itself. That there is no virus not only echoes futile searches for WMD but also highlights any impotent government that tries to divert its generally astute populace from serious threats.
The Host is satire, genre basher (no one could take seriously an overgrown fish favoring a little girl), horror flick (that fish can move with the agility of an acrobat and spit out bones with the ease of a hungry shark), and family values film (the only responsible crew going after the monster is a family including that slow dad, a food stand owning grandpa, and an archery champion daughter, among others). The love and affection of the family, while at times ludicrous, such as when they communally wail over the putative loss of the young girl, is a sharp contrast to the indifference of almost everyone else except the least among us, a tramp with surprising ingenuity.
Somewhere in the middle of The Host is a dramatic sag that could have used an editing scalpel, but overall it's a wonder of conflicting thematic purposes that eventually work to create a classic spoof of the genre and a caution about the need for civilian alertness to the deceptions and ineptitude of manipulative governments.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com