Sunday, March 18, 2012

Parasite (1982)

The Future™. In one of the fascist-corporate cities of a post-apocalyptic USA, scientist (I don't dare speculate what kind) Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini, looking appropriately sweaty and tired for most of the film) is building a dangerous parasite for his government. Why? The government and the corporations are evil, silly!

In a peculiar (that is, one that doesn't make sense even after you've witnessed it) accident, Paul manages to infect himself with his own creation. The scientist destroys all but one of the other parasites, and flees the city for the country, where no government applies and people tend to mind their own business. After setting up his badassitude by waving around a toy laser gun and winning an awkward slow motion fight scene, Paul (and the parasite pal in his belly, as well as the other parasite pal he carries around in what looks a lot like a thermos) comes to a quiet little post-apocalyptic desert town, and decides to set up his lab in what I imagine to be the last motel left in the world.

However, people just won't let Paul cure his state in peace. Black suited government bad guy Wolf (James Davidson) - a man with a laser looking a lot like a pen I once owned he's not afraid to use - is on his trail, and he'll do anything to get Paul's parasite back. Yes, even mutilating coffee-hoarding old coots.

Even worse than Wolf is the parasite itself: during an altercation with the small town's local (very mild, as far as these things go) population of post-apocalyptic punks, the thermos-dwelling parasite really digs into one of the punks' chests, so soon enough, Paul will not just have to deal with Wolf but also fight and catch a murderous, hungry, and growing parasite. At least the latter has an adorable smile. Plus, there's also young, pre-op Demi Moore as Paul's love interest and woman who will shoot a gas tank until it explodes in her moment of being plot-relevant.

As people of style and taste all over the world know, before producer impresario/writer and sometimes - like here - director Charles Band became obsessed by the spirit of a murderous barbie doll and only ever made films about murderous dolls, or at least things and people as small as dolls, anymore, he not only produced some actual classics of great low budget filmmaking, but directed some pretty decent films - and of course a load of crap too - himself. One might have to stretch one's definition of what can be called a pretty decent film a little if one wants to describe Parasite (well, actually, Parasite 3D, but who cares about 3D?) as such, but if one adjusts her expectations accordingly, the film's perfectly watchable.

Parasite's script works by the checkmark model of scriptwriting, which is to say, it's more like a list of elements from better films (Alien, of course, the first Mad Max film, clearly - you know, the classics) worked through one after the other, and less like an actually story, but at least it's taking its ideas from the right movies. Now and again, the writers even manage to work in a scene or two, or even an idea, which works on its own merits, and not on those of better films. The motel owner (Vivian Blaine) who seems to have stumbled in from Sunset Boulevard and her demise, for example, are perfectly clever little low budget movie ideas executed well. I also can't help but appreciate that film at least tries to turn the post-apocalyptic punks from one-note into two-note characters - their leader Ricus (Luca Bercovici) even has a backstory as a slave on a government farm.

On the negative side, the prospective viewer really needs to have some patience with the classical flaws of this sort of production (and let's be honest, especially of films Band didn't give to more talented directors). The pacing is erratic and drags more often than not, plot holes are large enough to fly a death star through, the "future" is represented by a small handful of 80s cheapo futurist gadgets and perspex on a gas pump, there are as few locations in use as a film could possibly get away with; and let's not even talk about the "dramatic" climax. But hey, at least the parasite looks good.

Me, I've been entertained by much worse films, and have ignored much larger flaws, so while I wouldn't exactly tell anyone to go out looking for Parasite, it's something I find perfectly alright to watch.


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