In Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space the Amazing Criswell said “We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I will spend the rest of our lives.” Well in the 1970s and 80s it seemed like everyone had the idea that the future was going to suck. A Boy and His Dog, Damnation Alley, Mad Max, The Road Warrior, and other films like them took a dim view of the not-too-distant future. Lawlessness, nuclear annihilation, gangs of thugs taking what they want through violence and destruction-- these are the tropes of many of these post-apocalyptic films. But for every classic like The Road Warrior, exploitation cinema latched onto the concept and ran with it. Dozens of knock off apocalyptic action/sci-fi films sprung up to serve the rising appetite of the direct to video market. Parasite was one of these low budget entries that tried to fill the empty shelves of video stores.
Parasite starts out with Dr. Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini) laying immobilized on a table. The scene is surreal as the doctor thrashes about in a haze of smoke. Flashes of him struggling with another man over something in a lab are inter-cut with him struggling on the table. Suddenly, in a scene loosely reminiscent of the chest buster scene in Alien only much more sluggishly done, a creature emerges from Dean’s chest. This turns out to be a dream and the Doc awakens with a start.
We learn that Dr. Dean has escaped from the clutches of the malevolent organization known as “The Merchants”. Their corporation, and others like it, are now the only source of government. They rule through control of limited resources and a ruthlessness that strikes fear into those not part of the organization. What’s left of the cities are nothing more than work camps for the poor who become ‘employees’ doing hard labor for the corporation just to survive.
Dean was working for them on a new weapon, a parasite, that the corporation believes will give them complete control of what remains of the world. Dean didn’t want them to have that kind of power, so he stole the only sample of the parasite, but in the process he himself became infected.
Now he travels the outskirts of civilization looking for a way to cure himself and stop the parasite threat. He is also looking for somewhere to hide from the Merchant agent sent to find him and retrieve the parasite, Wolf (James Davidson).
Dean finds the remains of a small town and takes up residence in the boarding house there. It is run by Miss Daley (Vivian Blaine) and is near the town’s only other apparent business, a trading post/bar run by Collins (Al Fann). The town is also the stomping grounds of a local gang run by Ricus (Luca Bercovici).
Since there isn’t much else to do after the apocalypse, Ricus’s gang torments Dean. They steal his silver metal container believing it to contain something valuable. When they open it the parasite inside jumps out and infects one of the gang.
Local lemon farmer Patricia Welles (Demi Moore in her first feature film) comes to the trading post to trade and ends up helping Dean who’s been injured by Ricus’s gang during the theft. Dean explains what’s going on with the parasite and she agrees to help him stop the parasite and cure himself.
Meanwhile Wolf shows up in a Lamborghini that sounds like a Prius and starts killing people with a little laser pen as he searches for Dean. Wolf confronts the gang and humiliates them, but doesn’t find Dean with them so he leaves.
When the parasite kills the gang member it was on and moves to one of the women of the gang, Ricus decides he needs help. He heads to town and this sets the stage for an uneasy alliance to form between Dr. Dean and Ricus to stop the parasite and the evil Merchant agent Wolf.
Parasite is not a good movie. It tries to be. There are lots of action scenes and special effects and even some humor. But the movie just doesn’t quite work. Shot for theatrical release in 3D, the movie, as do many color films shot in 3D, has a grainy, washed out look to it when not seen in 3D. The effects try to mimic better horror films like Alien, right down to chest, head and stomach bursting scenes, but they sacrifice realism for cheap 3D gag shots. The makeup and gore, though plentiful, are also not quality.
Ultimately though, Parasite’s cardinal sin for a horror/action/sci-fi film is that it is dull. The scenes between the action and scares drag on and make the film’s 85-minute run time feel much longer. Fans of Demi Moore may want to watch the film to see her humble feature film origins. Also, fans of Full Moon Features head Charles Band should check out the film as it was one of his first as a director. Otherwise, the best cure for this parasite is to avoid it at all costs.