Bong Joon-Ho: what a fantastically evocative name. With a handle like that, the South Korean director could easily be an ounce-a-day pothead or an Asian porno superslut. Sadly, he is neither, but with his new horror movie, The Host, he deserves our heartfelt commendation for reviving the fine old tradition of taking an innocent monster movie and packing it to the irradiated gills with yeasty political satire, knowingly zeitgeisty nods to Our Present Plight, and plenty of digs at the squid-brained idiots we have elected to rule over us. In times like these we need more of this sort of thing.
East and west both have lengthy heritages in this field. Back in the paranoid 1950s, Hollywood had Them!, the nuclear-zappped enormo-ants that in 1954 rampaged out of the Mojave Desert towards Los Angeles, twitching their fiendish mandibles and gargling many an upstanding citizen. Around the same time, the Toho studio of Tokyo gave us Gojira/Godzilla, the unappeasable byproduct of man's Promethean predilection for tinkering with the atom. The dread brethren of Gojira included Rodan and the decidedly unfearsome Mothra (He's Coming For Your Socks!), before the law of diminishing returns kicked in and prevented the Toho boyz from firing up the nuclear bunnies and Hello Kitties.
Still, as our friend Bong proves, there's plenty of mileage left in the form. He's got the US military in Seoul dumping gallons of poisonous formaldehyde into the Han River, thus creating an amphibian mutant-monster that is soon rampaging through town. The government, of course, are cravenly anxious not to offend their US overlords, quarantining whole sections of the populace and dosing the country with the piquantly named Agent Yellow.
It's amazing that every multiplex in the world isn't stuffed with movies like The Host. It's not like there's a shortage of material. We might see the side effects of depleted nuclear ammo in Iraq accidentally breeding a race of glow-in-the-dark fanatics bent on destroying our precious western way of life (oh, wait ...).
George Bush might be parodied as some variant of the Id Monster from Forbidden Planet, fizzing and humming with Methodist psychosis and neo-con self-righteousness, and Tony Blair might turn out to be some direly monstrous offshoot of the Quatermass Experiment (or, in a nod to his relationship with Washington, The KissAss Experiment). The Republicans could, without much exaggeration, turn into the New Living Dead, staggering about and thirsting after the brain matter of married homosexuals, abortion doctors and godless secular-humanists.
Of course, we'd have to nuke Hollywood before they'd let a political subtext into their product but, after all, that's what B-movies are for. Joe Dante showed how it's done in his scathing back-from-Iraq zombie satire The Homecoming last year. Low-brow, low-budget auteurs, here is your chance.
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