Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Monster movie proves Host to interesting satire.

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Having seen nearly every Godzilla movie ever made, I’ve always wondered what would happen if a filmmaker were to take the reptilian monolith seriously. Think about it, here is a gigantic, fire-breathing reptile with the destructive force of a natural disaster; if Godzilla steps on a car, stubs his toe on a house and falls on a skyscraper, thousands of people die.

If Godzilla movies were not so invested in the destruction of miniature cities and armadas, there could be scenes of people mourning the lives of dead loved ones or friends. This is perhaps the best way I could describe the South Korean monster film, “The Host,” which began playing at the Carousel this week. While the mutant fish creature in The Host is not as large or unstoppable as Godzilla, the havoc it creates seems more realistic simply because the movie offers the victims’ families a chance to react onscreen.

The Host focuses on the slightly dysfunctional Park family, who run a snack shop beside the Han River in Seoul. When their youngest member, daughter Hyun-Seo, is taken by a horrible river monster during a bloody rampage, the rest of the family spirals into deep depression. Making matters worse, the government and rabid news media also begin to spout disinformation which leads the grieving Park family, along with anyone else who was exposed to the monster, the be quarantined due to a supposed viral outbreak.

When the Park family is quarantined, they get a desperate cell phone call from Hyun-Seo, who has miraculously survived her capture. She’s trapped in the river monster’s lair, but when the Parks attempt a rescue, they are constantly thwarted by doctors and government officials who almost mockingly insist their daughter is dead, and that the phone call was the result of dementia wrought by the alleged virus.

I will admit that some of the film’s intentions might have been lost in translation. Several attempts at humor fell flat for me, and the scene where the Parks wail furiously at a shrine for those lost in the attack while photographers prey on their sorrow like vultures was rather obvious and ham-handed. However, at its core, The Host is a satire of the grief caused by national tragedies, and how the government, the media, demonstrators and other random opportunists attempt to exploit – and ultimately harm – those who are forced to survive them. In the end, the only people in this film who exhibit true strength and valor are the family, their children and those who have the heart to truly care.

While the movie is set in South Korea, it very much reminded me of the way my own country reacts when a major tragedy like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina comes our way. Now that we are in the wake of the VT Massacre, I see it happening all over again.

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