Release Date: March 12th, 1982 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Charles Band Actors: Robert Glaudini, Demi Moore, Luca Bercovici, James Davidson, Al Fann, Tom Villard, Scott Thomson, Cherie Currie, Vivian Blaine, Joannelle Nadine Romero, Natalie May
r. Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini, attempting to reproduce a scientist’s look through the use of a white lab coat alone) experiments with tiny leech-like creatures that are capable of burrowing into human flesh with an extremely acidic secretion. Or can they? His work at Xyrex (a company in bed with the government for biological warfare) seems to have caused a great deal of hallucinatory visions – possibly made worse by one of the slug critters that has wriggled its way into his stomach.
Things become even less coherent when Dean sports a green laser pistol and attempts to defend a rape victim (Cheryl Smith) from two gang members – only to be attacked by the girl when she reveals herself to be in league with them. But his fighting skills are impressive, especially for a detached scientist who travels around in a white van with all of his lab equipment jostling around in the back. When he wanders into the tiny town of Joshua to set up shop, it’s revealed that he is indeed carrying some sort of parasite in his abdomen. It also becomes clearer that the film is taking place in the future, in a “Mad Max” type of world where natural resources have dwindled and New York has been soaked in atomic radiation from nuclear warfare.
After Dean takes up residence in a hotel run by Miss Daley (Vivian Blaine), he meets bartender Collins (Al Fann) and courier Patricia Welles (Demi Moore), who are about the only two normal people in the mostly deserted town. The remaining denizens all belong to a gang (called “sickies” by outsiders) run by Ricus (Luca Bercovici), who stirs up trouble at every opportunity and likes to brandish his large hunting knife. For one of countless inexplicable actions, Ricus kidnaps Dean and takes him out to an abandoned auto shop just so that he can open a metal canister stolen from Dean’s room. Not so unexpectedly, the container holds a volatile parasite that lunges at the camera and affixes itself to Zeke (Tom Villard), one of the young thugs.
“Parasite” presents a curious vision of the future – where gas prices start at $30 per gallon, silver coins are the only acceptable currency, and handheld video games look primitive even by ’80s standards. Odder still is the fact that the film doesn’t attempt to establish its futuristic setting with any sort of intentionality; were it not for the occasional laser blaster, little about this project suggests a need for such an inclusion. In fact, since the monster elements are difficult enough to accept, it would have been better to have told this particular story in a familiar, present-day environment (as it is, it’s only set ten years into the future). Plus, none of the postapocalyptic details contribute meaningfully to the narrative.
Further problems arise with the unusually conspicuous human villain (James Davidson), called a Merchant, who behaves like a Blade Runner, drives around in a black Lamborghini, and wears a dark suit even in the hot sun. Additionally, the editing grows shoddier as the picture progresses, sporting pitiful cuts between scenes that generate a lot of questions – especially when Dean escapes from Ricus thanks to a fade-to-black shot rather than an actual rescue, and when Dean disappears for many minutes as Patricia and Ricus are both attacked by the Merchant. It’s surprising how rapidly the film devolves, especially when the opening scenes featured amusing nightmare sequences, eerie music (by Richard Band), and gruesome gore effects (the parasite was aptly handled by Stan Winston). The further use of excessive slow-motion and a tremendous amount of fog for destructive action moments and stunts continue to deteriorate the moderately promising start. But nothing can save this production from the atrocious dialogue and the terrible structuring, which make “Parasite” hard to follow and frequently laughable.
– Mike Massie