Robert Glaudini (Paul Dean), Demi Moore (Patricia Welles), Luca Bercovici (Ricus), James Davidson (Wolf the Merchant), Al Fann (Collins), Vivian Blaine (Miss Elizabeth Daley)
Nuclear War/Totalitarian Government
“I left New York for this place. Where you from?” “Near Los Angeles.” “Oh yeah? I hear they got big trouble out there.” “That’s why I left.” “Hmm. Well I guess we both did the right thing, I left New York for that same reason. Hell I love that city, that was before it got crazy that is, and all that atomic shit started falling out of the skies. That’s how I got this. *points at a prominent burn scar on his cheek* Hell, people started dropping dead right in the damn streets. *chuckles* I had to get out.” – Conversation between Paul Dean and Collins.
The last in our month of Charles Band post-apocalyptic movies is, fittingly, directed by Band himself. Parasite isn’t the first movie directed by Charles Band but it is the first one that anybody actually watched. It was also the first role of any importance for Demi Moore, so it’s got that going for it. I invite any readers who know of any post-apocalyptic movies that Charles Band was attached to that I have missed in this month of columns to tell me so in the comments section and I’ll rectify that.
We open on our lead character Doctor Paul Dean (missing link between Jeff Goldblum and Lance Henriksen, Robert Glaudini) having an expository nightmare. Dean works for a totalitarian government referred to only as The Merchants, their role in the post-apocalyptic world (and indeed the degree to which this world is post-apocalyptic) is only vaguely hinted at with references to various currencies, shortages of luxury items and fresh foods, and mention of atomic bombs. If not for the inclusion of two laser weapons in the movie it wouldn’t even seem futuristic at all.
Paul has been tasked by The Merchants to develop a super parasite to keep the hoi polloi under control somehow, but in a fit of conscience he absconds with the creature, unwittingly infecting himself in the process. He flees out into the wasteland where he works to develop a cure for the parasitic infestation in his own body.
Stopping in a small town to work, Paul is accosted by a gang of troublemakers led by Ricus (Luca Bercovici), who attempt to rob him and manage to free the mature parasite he’s carrying in a container. The creature latches onto one of the gang members and Paul is beaten and left for dead where he’s found by Patricia (Demi Moore), a local girl so wholesome and pure that she has not one interesting characteristic. To further complicate matters, a Merchant by the name of Wolf (James Davidson) is hot on Paul’s trail and he plans to capture Dean and the parasite no matter how many people he has to kill in the process.
Charles Band’s career is all over the place and rather bizarre. He’s an auteur and a workman, an artist and a hack, a dutiful company man and a film-maker willing to push the boundaries of good taste and convention in his films. Charles Band is everything wrong with low-budget film and one of its greatest champions both at the same time and it really makes evaluating the man and his work something of a difficult prospect. Parasite isn’t necessarily Band’s best movie nor his most off-kilter but it’s a nice microcosm of The Duality of Band (yes, I AM proud of myself for coming up with that) and as such it’s both a bad and a good movie at the same time.
First off, lets touch on the good: Parasite is different, in anyone else’s (*cough*Roger Corman*cough*) hands this would’ve been an Alien ripoff, by all accounts it really should be. But Band takes this parasitic horror movie and applies what I like to call “The Rule of The Giant Killer Hog.”
The Rule of the Giant Killer Hog relates to killer pig movies (examples: Razorback, Prey, Pig Hunt, Chawz) and the way that none of them are actually really about a giant killer pig. Oh sure, there is a giant killer pig and eventually the characters have to deal with it, but it’s at best a subplot in a movie that’s driven by a cast of characters and plot-lines far more complicated than “kill the giant pig.” This rule is applied to Parasite as we deal with a large cast of characters and plotlines that have nothing to do with either the giant killer parasite in the jar nor the one in Paul’s abdomen.
The bulk of the plot deals with Wolf the Merchant as he tries to track Paul down. He’s the primary threat of the movie and it’s only fitting that the climax involves the titular monster and Wolf grappling with one-another. There’s also the mini-boss threat of Ricus who used to live in “The Suburbs” where orphans were kept and exploited as work-slaves. His character goes through a reversal mid-film and becomes a sort of anti-hero.
We also get plot-lines with Collins, who runs the local cafe and has to deal with Ricus and his gang; Miss Elizabeth, a crusty woman with too much make-up who appears to have been some form of dancer or entertainer in the pre-collapse world and now manages an Inn in the small town; and Patricia, a sweet and innocent type who seems to have been born to be victimized.
These plot-threads intersect, separate, and coalesce around the plot of Paul trying to find a cure for the parasite, but it’s obviously not a priority to the film to find an answer quickly. For a creature feature filmed in 3-D, this is a very talky movie. Unfortunately, that’s also part of the problem.
On the bad end of the spectrum: While Al Fann and Luca Bercovici are very good actors (and Band wisely uses them as much as he can) the same cannot be said for the rest of the cast. This is particularly troubling in our leads. Robert Glaudini looks and acts like he just walked out of a Lucio Fulci film, he’s monotone and droll, barely exhibiting any personality at all. Even when Glaudini does deign to show emotion it comes across as exaggerated and silly. Why Charles Band chose to have this non-entity of an actor as his lead is beyond me.
Demi Moore is a similar problem, but in a different direction. It’s not entirely Demi’s fault, she was about 19-years old when this movie is made and she’s all baby fat and youthful awkwardness. Admittedly it’s not as if she matured into a particularly nuanced actress but I’m willing to throw her a mulligan seeing as she was barely an adult at the time of this movie. With that said, she is the master of the thousand yard stare in this film and makes some use out of the thankless role she was given, which is likely why we’ve heard of her and not any of the other people involved in this film.
While the complex plot and world-building is commendable, it’s very much beyond the movie to make any sense out of it. There’s not really much of a point to the movie and the entire third act is just a breathless rush to tie off all the plot threads in time for the end credits. Most of the cast dies for no reason and the great scene of dispatching the monster and Wolf is pretty anticlimactic.
The slow talky nature of the movie is a bit tiring at times (though certainly not as much as it is in many of the later films that Charles Band would direct/produce) and I can’t help but feel a lot of unimportant tripe is drawn out while plot-scenes don’t get enough attention. Maybe it makes a better movie to not talk about the giant killer pig so much, but at some point you do have to deliver a showdown with the pig or it’s just going to be an annoying red herring (see also: Tenafly Viper in Street Trash.)
Parasite is ambitious, but rather sloppy, which just like with Demi Moore’s acting would be more excusable if we know that the films of its director got better with time and experience. Every time I watch this movie I hate it until about 40 minutes in and then I quite like it. Parasite represents the two sides of the Charles Band coin and is a fairly worthwhile, if ultimately mediocre, movie. At least it doesn’t involve dolls.
And with that, we’re done with my latest marathon of columns. I shall be returning to Doomsday Reels’ regular bi-weekly publishing schedule next month, but rest assured I have another ill-conceived marathon planned for December.
Parasite is available as either an out-of-print DVD or another out-of-print DVD. Such variety!
NEXT TIME ON DOOMSDAY REELS
“It’s probably just another spy plane. They’ll never bomb us, we’re too boring. “
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