The Host, 2006

Screened at slightly more than the halfway mark of the festival, Bong Joon-ho’s The Host offers a particularly refreshing pause in the mind bending aftermath of the Inland Empire, a smart, offbeat, and competent horror film that effortlessly weaves the ingredients of a well-crafted monster thriller with an incisive, cautionary tale on environmental responsibility and cultural arrogance. At the core of the film’s untenable nightmare is a lone grieving family’s defiance to seek and exact revenge on the monster, a seemingly indestructible, made-made mollusk-like giant creature borne of genetic (and perhaps viral) mutations that begins to terrorize revelers at a park on the steps of the ubiquitous Han River. But beyond the film’s less than subtle jab at the (pointedly American) arrogance and abuse of authority that lead to the environmental disaster, the film is also a wry commentary on the culture of conformity and unquestioning deference to authority, as the survivors and first-hand witnesses to the monster’s rampage are relegated to the role of quarantined victims, forcibly isolated from the general population for decontamination, subjected to inhuman diagnostic experimental procedures in the name of exploratory science, and systematically deprived of civil liberties and basic human rights under the amorphous rubric of national security. Deploying convenient, unsubstantiated (and insubstantiable) quack theories and misinformation through the media in order to exploit the victims’ disorientation and cultural submissiveness to obfuscate the true nature of the threat, and in the process, transforming the monster’s already real menace into an almost mythical bogeyman responsible for all of the indefinable plagues that afflict contemporary society, The Host serves as a trenchant and provocative satire on the dysfunctional geopolitics of anti-terrorism.

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