Review Date: June 3, 2002
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 2002
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
The early 80s saw a brief revival of the 3-D film. We were treated to 3-D installments of several horror franchises like The Amityville Horror, Jaws, and Friday the 13th. Even a re-release of Andy Warhol's Flesh for Frankenstein was relatively successful. Leading the way of this 3-D revolution were two rather low-budget films: The spaghetti western Comin' At Ya! and the Charles Band monster film Parasite. Parasite has been released on DVD before, as a full-frame mono version, but now Anchor Bay has given us a widescreen and surround sound release. Unfortunately, the most important aspect of the film, it's three-dimensional gimmick, was not included on this disc. Is it worth watching anyway?
Parasite takes place sometime in the future, when corporations run the country and gas is $40 per gallon. Dr. Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini) roams the California desert seeking a temporary lab to continue some kind of experiments. Roaming gangs and a Lamborghini-driving corporate agent (referred to as a "merchant" here) seek to make Dean's life difficult, as well as something in his stomach that not even Extra-Strength Tums can cure.
For a long time very little happens. Dean meets various characters, including a local girl, Pat Welles, played by a young Demi Moore. But his friendship with Pat as well as a local barkeep (Al Fann) doesn't sit well with the local gang, led by Ricus (Luca Bercovici). Ricus and his buddies steal the main subject of Dean's experiments, a vicious parasitic organism that immediately attaches itself to one of the gangsters (Tom Villard).
The plot finally begins to fit together, as we find out that Dean needs that parasite specimen to find out how to kill a similar one that's destroying him from inside. The merchant (James Davidson) wants the parasite as some sort of weapon. How many gang members can the parasite chew through? Can Dean and Pat figure out how to kill it? And just how many objects can the filmmakers jam in your face? Get a copy of this movie and find out.
Other than Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, 3-D has never really been used as anything more than a gimmick. Theoretically, one could use the technology to create a depth that would make a film look more like a live stage production. Theoretically. Unfortunately, the process never really worked that well. The cardboard glasses were bulky and uncomfortable, the films often looked out of focus, and you got headaches more than anything else. Thus, to keep people going to 3-D movies, you had to have startling effects. I.E., you made stuff come out of the screen.
Parasite definitely falls into that gimmick category. It had to, as it was to be the film that ushered in a new 3-D fad, and for the most part, it was at least successful at that. Which also means that this is a mediocre film that relies way too much on 3-D gimmicks. I knew this when I saw it as a teenager in all its 3-D glory, and it's even more apparent now. The visual depth from the stereoscope process was the ONLY depth in this move, trust me.
The biggest problem of Parasite is that it's just a real slow and poorly acted movie that relied on a few effects scenes, and even those weren't very good. Most of this movie is Dr. Dean traveling about the wasteland, looking for gas and avoiding street gangs. There is a neat (but unimportant) sequence at the beginning of the film where Dean fights a would-be rapist resulting in a nasty impaling. After that it's an hour of dullness until the parasite finally makes its major attack. So you only have 20 minutes of decent action, and that was really meant to be seen in 3-D! What's the point?
Again, I don't think the aim of this film was to be good even without the 3-D effects, so you can't really blame producer/director Charles Band. I think he accomplished what he set out to do, and couldn't care less about the dull plot. The goal here was to show off 3-D technology to a generation that likely had never seen it. As for the movie itself, Demi Moore fans may get a kick out of seeing one of her first on-screen performances, and 70s punk rock fans will appreciate the acting debut of Runaways' singer Cherie Currie. Aside from that, there's little else here that's worth watching.
I was really unimpressed with the video transfer here. The previous release was only in full-frame, where this one is in its theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Even then, it's a sub-par transfer. Colors are anything but solid, and the film looks fuzzy throughout. Now, it's possibly the result of going from 3-D to 2-D, but I've seen other 3-D films on disc that look a lot better. Since Anchor Bay usually does marvelous transfers, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt here and chalk this up to poor film quality. This really doesn't look good at all.
Here we have a major change over the older release. Instead of a mono mix, we've been treated to a full Dolby Digital 5.1 re-mix. It's not very active in the surrounds, sticking mostly to the front soundstage, but it's probably the best this film has ever sounded. Since it's apparent that Anchor Bay was unable to clean the picture up any more, at least they gave the sound a decent representation. The original mono mix is provided as well.
Not much in the way of supplements either, as it's only a theatrical trailer on here. The trailer is also in 2-D, with disclaimers saying the movie will look better seen in 3-D. That's kind of the way I felt watching the entire movie. It would have been nice to have some interviews with the filmmakers here, perhaps shedding some light on their intentions. I wonder if they at least felt gratified knowing they began a brief 3-D revival, and if they even cared about the quality of the film itself. I think more could have been done here.
Parasite was never intended to be a quality film, only one that might whet a younger audience's appetite for a 3-D revival, and it can be considered moderately successful in that aspect. Seeing it minus the gimmicks is a real letdown, as when this movie is judged solely on it's content, it comes up way short. The poor transfer as well as the movie itself makes this real hard to recommend to anyone.
Movie - C-
Image Quality - D
Sound - B
Supplements - C-
- Running Time - 1 hour 24 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
- Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono