Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Run time: 132 minutes
The Lowdown: It’s almost fitting that I’m writing this review the morning after the 2020 Academy Awards.
Normally, I wouldn’t champion the fact that I’m behind schedule and wholly derelict in my duty to publish reviews of home media releases the week they actually arrive in stores for retail sale.
But this just goes to show you how rare and special writer-director Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is.
If you love movies, then Joon’ho’s name should be intimately familiar by now following 2006’s The Host, the best non-Godzilla kaiju monster romp ever filmed, and 2013’s Snowpiercer, the best apocalyptic class warfare thriller ever filmed.
But now that Parasite just made history as the first foreign movie to win Beat International Feature, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture, it’s clear that Joon-ho belongs to a new class of filmmakers, those auteurs capable of mixing pulpy genre elements with a searing, subversive political statement to create something that’s never been seen before.
Parasite is, first and foremost, a razor-sharp deconstruction of the social caste hierarchy that has since the dawn of civilization separated people for no reason other than wealth and status.
But it’s also a pitch-black satire about the lengths that people will go to survive, and thrive, in a world of limitless excess and unbridled hubris.
Kim Ki-taek (Kang-ho Song, a veteran of multiple Joon-ho films, including The Host and Snowpiercer) and his family – wife Moon-gwang, son Kim Ki-woo and daughter Kim Ki-jung – live in a basement apartment in Seoul, South Korea. They are all unemployed, forced to fold pizza boxes to make a pittance and relying on things like neighborhood pest control to kill the bugs that permeate their hovel.
When Kim Ki-woo is offered the chance to fill in as a tutor for the dim daughter of an uber-wealthy businessman, Park Dong-ik, his wife Park Yeon-kyo and their artistically ambitious son, he launches a plan to infest the Park household by creating job opportunities for all of his relatives.
The plot, in and of itself, is an amazing display of highly calculated deception.
But in Joon-ho’s hands, it becomes more than an epic, Quixotic attempt to subvert the normal rules and provide some much-needed financial relief. This being a Bong Joon-ho feature, you know that unexpected, deliriously brutal violence is never far out of frame, and when it does finally arrive, holy shit, you will not be prepared.
Joon-ho never lets viewers forget how far or great the dividing line really is between his impoverished protagonists and their wealthy marks.
His camera deftly captures everyday moments in a way that helps display the disparity without any exposition required. For example, the day that Kim Ki-woo leaves the family apartment for his job interview, he must trudge upward and onward, climbing so many steps, as if he’s literally extracting himself from the bowels of society one foot at a time.
Then, when he finally reaches the gated Park enclave, he must ascend a byzantine stairwell, as if he’s literally walking up toward the sun and all the prosperity it promises with its radiant heat and basking light.
Parasite does a masterful job depicting the wholesale infestation of the Park mansion, but what follows is so unexpected, so magnificently realized, that it’s only until you’re deep into the blood-soaked third act that you realize the extent of Joon-ho’s trickery and genius.
To say more would be a true disservice to anyone who has yet to take in Parasite. This is a movie that 100-percent deserves to be experienced with as little knowledge of the plot as possible.
And for any haters lurking in the bowels of the deep web, know this. Yes, Quentin Tarantino deserves an Oscar for more than his writing. But this was not his year, and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, while fantastic, is not the best overall film that he has directed.
If anything, Parasite is the Korean equivalent of Tarantino’s best, a movie that starts out as one thing before morphing entirely midway through into some much, much more profound and unforgettable.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – The growing disparity between the haves and have nots.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount, 128 minutes, R, 4K Ultra HD): You would think that at some point in the past 28 years someone, anyone, would have come up with a proper way to continue the Terminator franchise following writer-director James Cameron’s one-two blast of adrenalized time-travel science fiction with The Terminator in 1984 and T2: Judgment Day in 1991.
Yet, here we are, standing in the cinematic graveyard of failed foot soldiers, looking down on 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, 2009’s Terminator Salvation and 2015’s woeful Terminator Genisys, and it’s high time we as fans admit the unthinkable: Skynet won. The world we know is no more. And the resulting time loop that we’ve been forced to suffer for two-plus decades means that any new movie in this franchise is fated to be exactly the same film that’s come so many times before.
How else to explain Dark Fate, the sixth film in this universe, that brings back a reluctant Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a significantly aged, and now-married (??!??) Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), an alternate universe stand-in for Connor named Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), who – spoiler alert – is both Sarah and John Connor from the early films, as in she’s both the target of the machine insurrection and the savior of humanity – and the genetically-enhanced human-cyborg-hybrid Grace (Mackenzie Davis, branching far away from comedy/drama for her first action outing) sent back from the future to protect her.
How else to explain why Dark Fate – more spoilers – does away with the John Connor mythology in a flashback during the opening 15 minutes before leaping forward 22 years to present day.
How else to explain why Dark Fate casually steals the most iconic moments from past installments – the truck chase from Judgment Day, the end fight from Salvation – instead of coming up with something new, something original to say.
Isn’t that all that we, the diehard Terminator faithful, really want? Something different? The next chapter in the story. New characters we can care about who aren’t just approximations of classic characters we’ve loved since the early ‘80s.
Terminator: Dark Fate is nothing but a rehash of the original from 35 years ago with some woke diversity thrown in for good measure.
Hell, when you bring back an icon like Hamilton, an actor who all but vanished from Hollywood at the peak of her career, and you saddle her with lame, unironic quips like, “I’ll be back,” it should be abundantly clear why she looks bored as fuck.
It doesn’t matter how many knots the writers twist themselves into trying to explain how this is supposed to be a new story, just in a different timeline. When you have the following exchange, it shows that they too don’t give a damn about delivering something special to fans.
Sarah Connor: “What are you doing?”
Grace: “Future shit.”
For all that’s holy, somebody just pull the plug already.
It’s time to put fans out of their misery.
If this is the future, we don’t deserve to survive.
The Siren (Dark Sky Films, 79 minutes, Unrated, DVD): The Siren, the second feature from writer/director Perry Blackshear, is a quietly understated creature feature about a young mute man who is deathly afraid of water, and the mythological sea creature that inhabits the lake fronting the cabin where he has chosen to retreat.
Much like Spring, the superior, similarly toned horror romance from 2014, The Siren works best as a twisted tale of courtship, but Blackshear also introduces a revenge element as the titular creature (Margaret Ying Drake) seduced and drowned the husband of another resident, Al (MacLeod Andrews), who also lives near the lake and is determined to kill the beast no matter what.
What doesn’t work is Blackshear’s decision to keep his leading lady’s true form completely hidden from view, which was likely intentional due to budgetary reasons, but it denies and deprives horror fans of the kind of payoff that these specific subgenre-type efforts require to become buzz-worthy.
Still, The Siren is absolutely worth a watch as Blackshear’s command of both his story and its visuals signals the arrival of a director whose best work is yet to come.
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death
My Name is Myeisha
Very Bad Things
Edge of the Axe