Parasite (2003)

Starring Saskia Gould, Conrad Whitaker, G.W. Stevens, Margaret Thompson

Directed by Andrew Prendergast

Parasite isn’t a bad movie as much as it is just an especially dull, uneventful one. The movie clocks in around an hour and a half but I’m convinced if most of the scenes featuring people just walking around and working on machinery were cut down you could probably save at least a good ten minutes. Dry storytelling combined with a deliberate pace can become quite tedious, especially when the movie takes itself as serious as this one, too seriously if you ask me. This is unfortunate because the movie does have some moments of promise and seems to have been an earnest effort to make a scary monster movie. It just doesn’t succeed. I’ve said it before in past reviews so I might as well say it again; there’s a good reason why so many of the b-movies of the past were only about 70 minutes long. The film also suffers from a terrible third act made terrible due to the monsters coming down with a case of S.O.P.E.S. If you don’t know what S.O.P.E.S. is, just read on and I’ll soon explain.

After some eco-terrorists steal sensitive documents from the office of a sleazy oil company executive, said executive sends in a clean-up crew to one of their oilrigs out in the middle of some ocean. I don’t recall the specific ocean, not that it matters. The documents contained damning evidence regarding the harmful environmental impact of the oil company toppling inactive oilrigs into the ocean. Along with the ragtag black ops clean-up crew comprised of scruffy Brits, the sleazy oil executive also orders the company’s head of environmental science to join them on this abandoned rig. This lady oil company scientist has developed this new special enzyme that can be used to spray down the interiors of the rig to help prevent it from damaging the underwater ecosystem when toppled into the ocean. However, the enzyme is highly volatile and can affect the “genetic infrastructure of organic creatures” if not used properly. Unfortunately, when she arrives on the rig she discovers that the clean-up crew had already begun spraying down the place and didn’t bother to read the directions on the enzyme. Enter the big killer worms. Normally they would be microscopic and not “killer” but this is the kind of thing that can happen when you don’t read the instructions on the bottle of environmentally friendly yet still capable of mutating a living organism on a genetic level detergent.

Complicating matters even more is the arrival of those same eco-terrorists with plans to take everyone hostage and demand an end to biohazardous oilrig topplings. Oh, did I mention that the head eco-terrorist just happens to be the oil company scientist’s ex-boyfriend and that she herself used to be a member of this group? Before this whole subplot (the hostage taking part, not the ex-boyfriend part, unfortunately) has a chance to get going, the rapidly enlarging worms begin to attack. Now everyone is trapped on the rig and in desperate need of an escape plan and they can’t just communicate to anyone on the outside for help because one of those pesky outgoing communications/rescue-inhibiting thunderstorms has shown up.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, we have here yet another variation on the Alien formula. You know the drill. There’s a group of people trapped in an enclosed space with a hostile lifeform and seemingly no escape. Unlike Alien, the majority of the movie’s characters are only distinguishable by the amount of peach fuzz on their face or how thick their accent is. There are really only two characters that actually seem to have anything resembling a distinct personality. One is the leader of the clean-up crew, he ends up turning into the traditional freaked out coward whose cowardice causes even more trouble for everyone else. His demise towards the end of the movie is played out in almost exactly the same manner as Paul Reiser’s death in Aliens only we actually see him get his head bitten off. The only other character with any personality is the feisty female member of the clean-up crew. Her character is both underutilized and a bit inconsistent. At one point she’s climbing up a ladder and scolds the guy behind her for looking at her butt. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering she and that very guy were taking a coed shower together just five minutes earlier. If you count having a voice so husky it sounds like it should be coming out of the mouth of a roided up East German female weightlifter as a measure of personality, then I guess the lady scientist has some character as well.

Then there’s the problem with the worms. They’re basically large snake-like earthworms with a mouth full of sharp teeth. They can move fast yet rarely ever seem to catch anyone. The worms keep roaming around through the ductwork. Characters also keep roaming around through the ductwork. The worms and the characters almost never encounter one another in the ductwork. The worms can also spit this greenish goo, although I’m still not sure what the point of that was since it didn’t seem to do anything. At one point, the scientist deduces that the worms are parasitic and they’re not attacking people to eat them but to play host to their spores for reproduction. So why is it that these parasites keep eviscerating people? Why does one bite that guy’s head off? I’m fairly certain that is not how a worm goes about planting spores.

And then comes the film’s third act where the parasites suddenly come down with a nasty case of S.O.P.E.S., an unfortunate ailment brought on by lazy filmmaking that strikes many a movie villain. S.O.P.E.S. stands for Sudden On-set Procrastinating Enemy Syndrome. Surely we’re all familiar with movies where the monster/killer/bad guy could easily kill the good guy but either hesitates or just takes its sweet time doing so leading to the potential victim escaping or killing it. One of the best examples of S.O.P.E.S in action was at the end of Hellraiser 3 where Pinhead draws a knife and takes about five minutes worth of baby steps towards the heroine, giving her enough time to solve the puzzle box and use it against him. That’s classic S.O.P.E.S.

In Parasite, a crewmember is desperately climbing down this ladder as fast as possible while being chased by one of the large worms. He then falls a short distance injuring his leg insuring that he cannot stand up. Surely, this guy is a goner, right? Nope. The parasite gets a convenient case of S.O.P.E.S. and just sort of hangs above him just sort of staring at him for so long someone else has time to run about 300 yards to rescue their friend and even construct a makeshift bomb with which to kill the creature. That is S.O.P.E.S. at it’s absolute worst. And then essentially the same darn thing happens again a few minutes later.

In the end, Parasite is, for the most part, a competently made movie that is unremarkable at best and frustrating at worst brought down even further by tedious pacing. The best the movie has going for it is the atmospheric setting aboard the darkened rig and the parasites themselves, the CGI actually being surprisingly decent. Too bad they weren’t in a movie where they actually got to do something other than slither through ductworks and pop out for a cheap scare every so often. Too bad nobody working on the film had a S.O.P.E.S. vaccine.

1 ½ out of 5

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