In times of emergency, I turn to the movies for help.
And a tall, refreshing mug of vodka.
But especially movies. We've seen guys defeat alien hordes, Earth-shattering asteroids, even take down the '60s while growing up touched in the head. You want an example of what to do when things get nuts, just turn on the TV. Or steal it from your Internet, you kids today.
Life is beset by troubles on all sides, but there's no mountain so high it can't be scaled with the help of a shotgun and maybe a really fast car. In 2006's The Host, we've even got answers for what to do when a sea monster and your government turn on you.
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When a mortuary dumps hundreds of gallons of expired formaldehyde into the Han River, it mutates a normal fish into a man-eating monster. Its rampage through Seoul leaves bungling food cart employee Kang-ho Song's daughter Ah-sung Ko imprisoned in the monster's sewer lair. If Song wants to see his daughter again, he and his family will have to break out of government quarantine and rescue her themselves.
It's not the first time a horror movie's portrayed the government's response to crisis as useless or outright harmful to its own citizens. In the Night that Nixon Grew 200 Feet Tall and Accidentally Stepped On Us All, a young Gerald Ford pours an oil slick in the path of fleeing citizens.
Where The Host shines is its relentless satire of authority. As Song is repeatedly imprisoned, dismissed and derided by doctors and officials, director Joon-ho Bong plays the scenes straight -- until suddenly you're watching a slapstick nightmare, a world where everyone with a shred of power is incompetent, uncaring, or so openly cruel they probably go home at night to tell their children they'll grow up to be assistant crack whores.
Not that the ostensible heroes come off much better. Song's attempts at rescue just make things worse (it's suggested he's brain damaged). In a weird takedown of horror movies, Bong takes the same sudden leaps into satire that he uses against authority to mock his characters' emotional pain too.
Yet somehow -- possibly because, well, that's so mean -- it makes their plight more horrific and touching. Ultimately, Bong's on their side.
But enough of that. The important thing is The Host has a big, walking fish-monster snatching people up with 20-foot tentacles. In Shaun of the Dead fashion, The Host may be part comedy and part commentary, but it's also a fine horror movie. That's success.
* Contact Ed Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest science fiction is available on Amazon here."