Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Parasyte (2014)

If John Carpenter and John Hughes made Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a high school horror-comedy, this is it

A high school student must co-exist with an alien that’s taken residence in his right hand while stopping a hostile alien invasion.

Being a feature adaptation of a late 1980s sci-fi/horror manga series, Parasyte has an old school sensibility. There’s a stealth alien invasion which involves centipede-slugs crawling up people’s nostrils, eating their brains, taking over their bodies, and turning them into shape-shifting, flesh-eating monsters that look like they’d escaped from John Carpenter’s The Thing. If that’s not bad enough, in their human guises the aliens run for office, teach (or study) in schools, uphold law and order...

This gimmick alone would’ve been enough to make Parasyte a solid offering: these days, sci-fi and horror films tend to eschew commentary about paranoia, fifth columns, conformity and alienation in modern society to the extent that someone’s liable to think these were problems of a long-gone age.

Parasyte also has a twist. While being a horror film, it’s also a high school comedy (both literally and metaphorically) where the wimpy protagonist, as much as his brainy alien co-resident and the invading antagonists, undergoes the very human, very funny rite of passage known as “coming of age”, where one learns about social boundaries, norms, and one’s role in society—and when to accept, test, and challenge them.

Truth be told, the film didn’t need to do both but it is the interaction between the social themes of the sci-fi horror and the high school comedy that makes Parasyte a brilliant piece of storytelling. Takashi Yamazaki (The Eternal Zero, Space Battleship Yamato) manages to deliver a film that balances and switches seamlessly between sci-fi horror and teenage comedy, and whose moral and philosophical underpinnings are not drowned out by its impressive CGI.

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