Very few people remember the short-lived 3D resurgence of the 1980s. I think we, as a movie-going collective, realized the best thing to do with films like ‘Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn’ and ‘Treasure of the Four Crowns’ was to, quite simply, forget them. For the greater good, we have suppressed our memories and moved forward. But one movie from that strange era has hung around and still flails an appendage about for our attention: Charlie Band’s dreck epic, ‘Parasite.’
‘Parasite’ is best known as Demi Moore’s first film and, to be honest, she is gorgeous in it. Her feathered hair, that weird jumpsuit/overall outfit she rocks, and her raspy scream are all over this movie. But the movie also features Cherie Currie, the former lead vocalist for The Runaways. She screams too, but she does not sing “Cherry Bomb.” ‘Parasite’ is also a good place to see some early work from creature designer Stan Winston, who went on to create both the Terminator and the Predator.
Pedigree! This movie has one. It is filled with talent to its very brim. Unfortunately, ‘Parasite’ is like that ugly piece of refrigerator art your favorite child brings home. No matter how much you love that kid and see the potential within him or her, you put that piece of art on the side of the fridge so you don’t have to look at it.
The plot is pretty standard. In a post-apocalyptic world, a scientist (Robert Glaudino, who looks like a thinner, sweatier Jeff Goldblum) has created a kind of parasite that an evil corporation wants to use as a bio-weapon. One of the parasites has taken up residence in the scientist’s belly. He has the other one in a vacuum bottle so he can study it. The bottle is stolen by a group of leather thugs who unleash the parasite onto the world. The scientists have to stop the parasite before A) it eats everyone it comes in contact with and B) the hired killer from the company finds it and takes it back for weaponization.
At its core, this movie is, essentially, another ‘Alien’ knock-off. You’ve seen it before in one form or another, but ‘Parasite’ moves soooo slooooooowly, it is excruciating to watch. There are long stretches of screen time where absolutely nothing happens. The scientist drives an ambulance. He reads a book. He eats some soup. None of this serves to further the story. The characters are poor copies of better, more fleshed-out ones. The ‘Mad Max’ desert gang, the wise old African-American, the aging actress who used to be beautiful, and the assassin in a three piece suit all make appearances here as if they were attending a stereotype convention. Add in the slow-motion shots that allegedly looked great in 3D, which we are now forced to watch in glorious 2D, and you have a film that is about shallow characters inexplicably reaching towards the camera. It sounds like a Beckett play; it plays out like Stick Figure Theater.
There is nothing even remotely grounded in reality in ‘Parasite.’ You can’t relate to the humans, you certainly can’t relate to the monster and all you really want is for everyone to stop being stupid. For example, when the scientist wonders if he can kill the parasite with high-frequency sound, he drags out an oscilloscope. This makes sense visually because we can see the sound waveform. However, while oscilloscopes can measure the electrical signal of a sound, they can’t produce a sound. What’s he gonna do? Hum real loud?
This is the same story sci-fi filmmakers have been falling back on since the Golden Age of Sci-Fi when Theodore Sturgeon and Fritz Leiber were writing pulp stories for nickel magazines. Here’s an unstoppable monster. How do we stop it? There are hundreds of variations on that same theme, some of them quite good. This is not one of them. In fact, it feels like extra steps were taken to ensure that ‘Parasite’ is as dumb as possible.
It’s difficult to gauge the special effects in ‘Parasite’ because I didn’t see it in its original 3D format. The monster itself is a slug with teeth, not incredibly sophisticated, and could very well be a hand puppet. There are some elements of Fulci in the stomach-bursting scenes, but not enough to make a true believer cut the movie any slack. There aren’t even any jump scares, because all those shocks are filmed in slow motion, to take full advantage of the 3D that is no longer there. My gut tells me, though, that even in 3D, ‘Parasite’ would be a long laborious experience, full of long stretches of yawning and throwing popcorn.
Of all the 3D films from the eighties that we tried to forget, it’s a shame that ‘Parasite’ is the one we choose to remember. ‘Parasite’ is a sloppy excuse for a monster movie. In need of judicious editing and a brain, the movie plods along, fatally boring everyone who gets in its way. Let me put it another way for those of you who have broken conditioning and remember: ‘Parasite’ is no ‘Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone.’