The X-Files: “The Host”

The Creature from the Muck Lagoon

By Sarah Stegall

copyright © 1994 by Sarah Stegall

Writer: Chris Carter

Chris Carter should be terrified to learn that, seven minutes into last night’s episode of “The X-Files”, four of the five TV viewers in my household left the room and never came back. This is bad, bad news for anyone in the ratings game. The “X-Files” has built its reputation on being cool, hip and just a little bit twisted. Viewers have come to expect something more sophisticated than a gore-filled remake of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”.

When we settle down with Scully and Mulder for an hour of thrills and chills, we expect to be spooked, titillated, and challenged. We do not expect a cheapo latex monster straight out of Tokyo, circa 1968. We do not expect the Tobe Hooper approach to horror: throw a bucket of guts (or in this case, worms) at the audience and watch ’em squirm. As always when Chris Carter writes one of the episodes, the interaction between the main characters was excellent. Give Anderson or Duchovny half a chance and they can make these rather two-dimensional TV roles come alive. Mulder’s reaction, when he bullies his way into his superior’s office only to find himself interrupting a high-level meeting, is wonderfully understated. Scully’s distress over her partner’s possible resignation is suitably restrained while showing us her concern. Mulder’s anger at Skinner and the “meaningless assignments” he has been given are very well brought out; once again it is brought home to us that while he is pretty much an introspective, thoughtful man, even Mulder can be pushed too far. And the scene in Scully’s office, where the two regain the camaraderie of “old times” for a moment, is priceless.

But not even these pleasures can counteract the aggressively ugly scenes such as the fluke vomited forth by the unfortunate sewer worker, the graphic autopsy scene (do I HAVE to watch this?), or the intimately detailed explorations of various toilets, sewers, etc. This is the Stephen King approach to horror: if he can’t give us that elegant frisson of fear he will give us the heave of nausea. It doesn’t work in King and it doesn’t work here. In fact, it undercuts everything the show has built up so far.

Nor do I welcome the intrusion of yet another mysterious informant to feed Mulder’s paranoia as he smuggles out tantalizing tidbits from some secret power base. Since Deep Throat is dead and Carter has not named this new source, I christen him for what he is: Plot Device. I can understand why Carter might think he could get away with this kind of storyline; last year’s “Ice” had a pretty high rating. The problem lies in his misinterpretation of the audience’s reasons for watching “The X-Files”. I liked “Ice” IN SPITE OF the graphic worm sequences; I liked it for the marvelous (if flawed) interaction between the characters. Later, Glen Morgan and Jim Wong managed to give us a thoroughly enjoyable dose of the creeps when they gave us the liver-eating Eugene Tooms without ever crossing the line between good horror and good taste.

But on Friday night, I felt I was watching something put together by a fourteen year old boy out to gross out his pals. Bottom line: If this was my first sight of this show, I would not watch it again. You catch more flies with honey than slime, Chris.

No sunflower seeds at all.