Parasite (1982)

Starring Robert Glaudini, Freddy Moore, Demi Moore, Luca Bercovici, James Davidson, Al Fann, Cherie Currie, Tom Villard, Vivian Blaine

Directed by Charles Band

Expectations: High, the posters are all sorts of awesome.


It’s been nearly a year since I reviewed anything from the Charles Band era prior to the formation of Empire International, and what better time than Horrific October to make a return visit? From the short list I chose Parasite for two very specific reasons. One is that poster to the right. It’s not necessarily a great poster (or even a good one), but it’s one that instantly grabs me and tells me to watch the film. It’s delightfully cheesy and I figured if the film echoed any of this quality, it would be a good time. Not that horror posters are to be fully trusted. The other, and slightly less dubious, reason was that Parasite has the distinction of being Demi Moore’s first major film role. I’m not much of a fan, but early actor roles are always good fun, especially when they come in trashy horror films.

The story in Parasite is somewhat threadbare, but for this type of film there’s more than enough. Parasite opens with a high-color, intense laboratory scene where a scientist looks in various microscopes at various wriggling organisms. Another man lies strapped down to an examination table, freaking out. The doctor fucks up, dropping a petri dish and unleashing a dangerous parasite that quickly burrows into his stomach. The scientist loads a canister with another organism and books out of the lab as quick as possible. The man strapped to the table doesn’t fare so well though, as the parasite bursts out of his stomach first and then the top of his head. Whew! Five minutes in and already an alien has burst out of some dude’s head. This could be an instant classic.

OK, so instant classic is a bit of a stretch, but Parasite is pretty good B-Movie fun. After the prologue sequence, we are introduced to the post-apocalyptic wasteland (read: California desert) where silver is the only valid currency and canned food is pretty much the only sustenance. Of course being a low-budget film there are glaring errors in this logic, such as the scene when the restaurant owner Collins announces that all they have is canned fruit, canned beer and canned soup but unopened bottles of beer clearly sit behind him. Overall though, the film manages to sell its post-nuclear setting quite well. There aren’t any mutants or half-breeds, but the youths of the world all run in lawless, pillaging gangs and the population feels pretty thin.

As you might guess, these lawless youths meet up with the scientist and here is where the parasitic goodness comes to pass. It’s a pretty slow burn up to this point, concerned mostly with The Wild Ones style conflict between the scientist, the gang and the remaining townspeople. After the parasite is unleashed though, everything goes to hell in a silver thermos, and I couldn’t be more happy as a horror fan. The last half hour is a joy to watch, filled with creepy, slithering parasite FX and meaty gore. By volume, there are tons of other films that have Parasite beat, but there’s not a single film that I can remember that features an elderly lady slowly dying on the floor, culminating in her entire face bursting open into a red, gory hole, revealing the flesh-hungry parasite within. There’s definitely better films, there’s definitely better horror films, but for my money, I just can’t argue much with a film that delivers something as satisfying as this parasite. It grows as the film moves along, but regardless of size, it’s mostly a long, tadpole-like entity with a giant mouth filled with razor-sharp teeth.

Originally Parasite was shot and presented in Stereovision 3D and it shows! Nearly every shot is composed with the effect in mind, either exhibiting a long depth of field with large objects in each plane of the image, or the more obvious “stuff coming out at you” effect. Snakes, petri dishes, grabbing hands, ruffians thrown in slow-motion through glass lunch counters… If the amount of awesome shots designed for 3D is any indication, then Parasite in 3D was fucking awesome. With Full Moon’s upcoming DVD release of the 3D edition of Evil Bong 3, I’d love to see them put out 3D editions of Parasite and The Creeps to go along with it. C’mon guys!

The parasite busting out of a face!

As a film, it’s an interesting one to consider given the amount of Charles Band’s filmography I’ve ripped through over the course of the last year or so. On the surface, Parasite shares a lot of its visuals with Laserblast, a Charles Band produced B-movie masterpiece from 1978. They’re both shot in the same desert north of Los Angeles and feature cheap, heavy-grain film stock. This lends something of a brother/sister quality to the films on the surface level. But where Laserblast has a less-than-paper-thin story, with long stretches of the film eaten up with footage of the main character flailing in the desert or walking around aimlessly, Parasite is fairly solid in the narrative department and is even narrative driven like other films. Imagine that! The story and the storytelling aren’t up to par with Band’s later Empire or Full Moon output, but it is a ridiculous improvement over Laserblast and the other Band-produced 70s film I saw, End of the World. It should be noted that Band did not direct those two films, and perhaps it was their lackluster storytelling that led him to jump into the director’s chair himself. Parasite also contains one distinct call-back to Laserblast that, whether it was intentional or not, I greatly appreciated. In grand Laserblast fashion, Parasite ends with a giant slow-motion explosion!

Parasite is definitely one for the more hardcore B-Movie horror fans, as it is pretty low-budget and therefore has a high barrier to entry. If you can get over that, Parasite features some great FX by the illustrious Stan Winston (yes, you read that right!). It also features Demi Moore in her first major role, so if you’re interested in seeing her act woodenly in her youth, this is the film for you! Apparently Band announced a sequel during the Empire days, but sadly it was never produced. Click here to read about that unfinished film!

Next week, it’s the only Stuart Gordon Full Moon film I haven’t seen, 1995’s Castle Freak adapted from the H.P. Lovecraft short story The Outsider. Can’t wait! And tomorrow continues my look at Classic Japanese Horror with the renowned film Onibaba!

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