I, like practically everyone on the planet, have my vices. Aside from my deeply unsettling addiction to Italian post-apocalyptic cinema, my biggest vice would have to be the purchasing of DVDs and VHS tapes en mass. "But Brian/' you say, "everybody buys movies!" Silence lemmings! The difference is that I tend to buy movies I haven't seen based on the smallest of positive word-of-mouth. So I have quite a few titles languishing on my shelf that not only have not yet been viewed, but in many cases are still confined to their shrink-wrapped gulags. In an effort to be proactive, and quell my wife's urge to kill me, I will not buy another DVD or VHS until I watch every unviewed film I currently own.
Today's fare: Parasite Why Did I Buy It?
Recently all the Hollywood Videos in Austin closed; unable to compete with the formidable awesomeness of our local video rental establishments. The benefit of this corporate surrender was that Hollywood Video began selling off its entire stock and steadily slashing their prices lower and lower in an effort to liquidate their inventory. Much to my wife's chagrin, I made regular trips to the various locations to pick clean the carcass of the failed store. Upon my last trip, when the price had dwindled to 3 for $10, I grabbed a film I had heard of in a very satellite way. All I knew was that it was one Demi Moore's first films and it was originally presented in 3-D. But honestly the beautiful cover art is what ultimately sold me. I know that's a gamble, but for less than four bucks, it's a gamble I can live with.
Parasite takes place in the distant future of 1992 wherein a nuclear war has decimated much of the country. A scientist named Paul Dean, commissioned by an evil corporation, has been experimenting with different breeds of leech-like insects when he creates a new species that can grow to gargantuan proportions. When his lab is raided by the company for which he works, Dr. Dean flees with the only two living samples of his creation; one in a metal container and one housed within his own body. When he arrives in what can barely be described as a town along the highway, he thinks he's found a quiet place to finish his work. But a band of local hoods begins to make his life a living hell and unwittingly unleash a terror none of them can fathom.
The most notable thing about Parasite is how unstoppably boring it is. It all takes place in this one small grouping of buildings that, on the surface, seems a byproduct of the pseudo post-apocalyptic story. But as the film meanders through the run time, you understand that this film was conceived, written, filmed, and edited over the course of a weekend. That's probably not entirely true, but what is evident is that the entirety of the budget was ear-marked for 3-D effects and therefore this movie feels detrimentally self-contained. I like post-apocalyptic films, but this one grazes the concept so noncommittally that it fails to hold even my interest.
It should be a chore, but I always enjoy watching a film that was originally intended for 3-D on a completely 2-D format. It's fun to observe the moments that were clearly designed to showcase the effects regardless of their coherence with the story when the dazzling distraction is removed. The moment when the parasite monster's drool falls from the ceiling and splashes heavily on the lens of the camera is hilarious. I can see how seeing this film in theaters, in 1982, with the 3-D in tact would stir patrons to squirm in their seats. For me that experience is akin to going to a film museum and examining a relic in order to understand the technology that exists today and how it has evolved.
Though few and far between, the creature effects in Parasite make the movie watchable. Sure, Demi Moore is gorgeous and she does a good job despite her lack of experience, but the well of decent performances is otherwise dry. Cherie Currie from The Runaways actually has a bit part as well, but her work is nothing to write home about. Although, I did find it funny that our hero looks like some distant, unmentioned relative of Jeff Goldblum. But again, the driving force of Parasite is Rick Baker's work with the parasite itself. I don't need to tell you what a genius Baker is so I will simply highlight a scene that I had to rewind several times just to bask in its brilliance. A woman who becomes infested with the monster lies dying on the floor. The camera pulls in tight on her face from whence a giant leech-like worm bursts in a bloody, pulpy explosion. The cast of the woman's head, the seamless propulsion of the leech, and the visceral aftermath all make for what will go down as one of my favorite Rick Baker effects of all time.
One of the cool behind-the-scenes aspects of Parasite is that it was directed by Charles Band. Band was involved, in some way, shape, or form with scores of awesome horror/sci-fi flicks. Along with directing Parasite, he also produced Tourist Trap, Troll, Trancers, From Beyond, and Terror Tuesday alum Crawlspace. He became sort of the Roger Corman of the 90's with his Full Moon Pictures churning scores of successful, if questionable, films like the Puppet Master, Dollman, and Subspecies series.
Had it not been for the sale and the ridiculously low price, I would have said no. The film is lifeless in its tedium but it was worth seeing just for the Rick Baker work. Had I paid full price for the DVD, which would have been hard to find so probably would have entailed additional shipping costs, I would be disappointed. But as it stands, paying less than a dollar more to own it as I would have paid to rent it is completely worthwhile.