Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Parasite (1982)

When I was about 12, I saw Cronenberg's Shivers for the first time and it completely blew my mind. Sure, it's kinda hokey when you watch it these days, but as a kid I thought it was the coolest concept ever. I can think of a few movies that have a similar setup (The Deadly Spawn, Slither, Night Of The Creeps, Puppet Masters, various terrible SyFy productions), but the "killer parasite" genre is so ripe for exploitation it's surprising that there aren't thousands of Shivers clones out there. I guess people were too busy making slashers. 

So, Parasite should be right up my street, being as it is a Charles Band-directed Shivers rip with somewhat decent production values. One of the joys of watching old b-movies is spotting stars hamming it up before they were famous - in this case, we have Demi Moore in her first starring role. Often DVD covers of b-movies play up stars' involvement, but Moore actually does star in this movie, which in a weird way gives it the feel of a more accomplished film.

Parasite is set in a post-apocalyptic future, where a scientist (Robert Glaudini) working for the government uncovers a new kind of parasite, only to become a host to one himself, prompting him to go on the run for fear of being terminated as part of a cover-up. Glaudini befriends Moore after she rescues him from a beating by a gang of local punks, but things don't stay smooth for long as Glaudini is being tracked by a government agent that will do anything to find and kill him.

I can't help but wonder if the makers of Parasite went with the "desolate future" approach in order to cash in on the success of Mad Max 2, which was a hit the previous year and prompted a whole slew of cheap rip-offs in 1982 and 1983 (mostly from Italy). It's full of cheap props that were probably rescued years before from the sets of old science-fiction TV shows, and for the most part it does succeed in creating the feel of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, especially considering the minute budget. Naturally it's still extremely cheesy at points but it gets the message across more successfully than other stinkers I've seen.

Obviously in a movie about giant parasitic slug creatures, effects are pretty central to the whole thing. Stan Winston provides the effects here, and they're surprisingly ropey for the most part - though this is almost certainly due to the budget. The effects on the parasites themselves are at times laugh-out-loud awful, in particular in a scene where a parasite drops in slooooow-motion from the ceiling onto a woman below, looking like a giant wet sock. That said, this is a b-movie, and not only should this kind of thing be expected, it's all part of the appeal. There are a few solid moneyshots gore-wise that lift the whole thing in my estimation; especially the death of the hotel owner towards the end, which actually made me spit tea everywhere from laughing. The movie also manages to throw up a few genuinely gross moments, all of which amount to a fun watch overall.

Parasite is definitely a "bad' movie, but I'm kind of surprised by how much hate there is for it online (it's rated 2.9 on IMDB). Sure, it's pretty slow and the effects are mostly geck, but I like the feel of it and the acting is definitely above average for this kind of movie - Robert Glaudini in particular is great as the frayed, bug-eyed scientist and Demi Moore is well, the same as she always is. As long as you know what you're getting yourself into, you'll be alright.

Check out this trailer that says virtually nothing about the movie other than that it's in 3D.

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