Warning: There are mild spoilers for Parasite ahead.
It’s one of the best reviewed films of the year. It’s selling out theaters. It’s breaking (some rather specific) box office records. It’s got huge word-of-mouth appeal. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Parasite is doing everything a film needs to do to get people intrigued, but… what is Parasite about? The trailer makes the movie look interesting and visually stunning, but it doesn’t explain too much about what's going to happen. Is it a horror movie? Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is that rich lady with the fluffy dog the mastermind of whatever the heck is about to go down?
These are all valid questions to ask. On Wikipedia, the movie from director Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer, Okja) is called a “satirical black comedy thriller film”, and, yeah, it’s all of those things and so much more. With Parasite, it probably works best to go into the theater not knowing much, because this film is full of surprises. If you can, take as much advantage of them as possible.
But, if you fear that Parasite will be too scary, too gory, or leave your mind racing for far too long after seeing it, read on to find out some more about the movie and decide if this particular viewing experience is for you.
How Scary Is Parasite?
Parasite is not a horror movie, so it’s not scary in the sense that there are supernatural presences, a bunch of jump scares, or some overriding threat that everyone is trying to run away from (at least not in a literal sense). That said, things do turn creepy around midway through the movie. There are times when the anticipation of what’s going to happen might get the best of you, and you’ll find yourself not wanting your feet to touch the ground. There are also a couple almost jump scares — characters appearing again when you wish they wouldn’t. Will you have to worry about ghosts or monsters lurking around your apartment? No. Will there be images that haunt your afterward? Probably not. Well, not unless you have a problem with our next point…
Is Parasite Gory?
Yeah, Parasite gets pretty damn gory, but only at the end of the film. You don’t have to worry about seeing a bunch of blood throughout. (Other than at one comedic moment when a packet of hot sauce is used as fake blood.) But, toward the end, there’s a sequence of intense gore that features weapons including a kitchen knife and a large grill skewer. If you don’t like your time at the cinema to include any violence or blood at all, this isn’t for you.
What Genre Is Parasite?
Part of the reason your friends won't stop talking about Parasite is that it kind of defies any typical genre classification. It is a super thought-provoking film. You’ll probably leave the theater thinking about the characters’ motivations, questioning how certain things would have worked out, and just pondering what it all means. That said, it’s not a psychological thriller, so it probably won’t keep you up at night, if that’s something that’s been an issue for you. (Personally, I’ll never forgive Shutter Island.)
Okay, Fine, Here's What Happens In Parasite
If you really, really need to know more about the plot before heading in, read on. (More concrete spoilers beyond this point. Obviously.)
To put it as simply as possible, Parasite is about a poor family, who all lie their way into getting jobs in a rich family’s home. The son (Choi Woo-sik) becomes an English tutor, the daughter (Park So-dam) an art teacher, the dad (Song Kang-ho) a chauffeur, and the mom (Jang Hye-jin) a housekeeper. This relates to the name Parasite — these people are becoming parasites to the home itself and to the family that lives in it. Things take a major turn — and a turn towards the even more… parasite-y — when the previous housekeeper (Lee Jeong-eun) returns to reveal that her husband (Park Myeong-hoon) has been living in the home’s basement for years.
A lot more goes down from there that involves the gore and more creepy moments mentioned above. But, the overriding theme of the movie is about the rich and poor classes and the relationship that exists between them. This gives viewers a lot to think about when it comes to the film’s title.
Parasite really is worthy of all the five-star reviews it’s received. The story, from Bong and Jin Won Han is original, compelling, and, to use a word one of the characters repeatedly says in a nod to what we’re watching, “metaphorical." The cinematography from Kyung-pyo Hong is stunning. The actors are all wonderful. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and edge-of-your-seat thrilling. If you can handle a scene of violence and some moments that will really shock you, go see it. If you can find a ticket.