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2019’s socially-aware thriller of the year: ‘Parasite’

| Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Joseph Han

In every country, there’s poverty. But wherever there’s poverty, wealth can be found nearby. Sometimes, this wealth can be found only as a dream in the minds of the poor; sometimes, it can literally be seen down the block in a stunning luxury mansion with a lovely lawn of green grass. In Bong Joon-ho’s gripping, powerful new film, “Parasite,” wealth is found in both places.

“Parasite,” set in South Korea, tells the story of the impoverished Kim family. Father, mother, son and daughter live together in a dingy, cramped basement apartment, pilfering their neighbor’s wifi, struggling to make ends meet and constantly searching for a new way to make money while relying on their filial bonds to sustain them. Their golden ticket to prosperity falls in the hands of son Kim Ki-woo (Choi woo-sik), who lands a job tutoring for the daughter of the affluent Park family.

The Parks — a family with a businessman father, housewife mother, teenage daughter and rambunctious son — live in the aforementioned luxury mansion, a stunning piece of modern architecture with a lovely yard. As Ki-woo gets into the family’s good graces, he cunningly finds jobs for his father, mother and sister in the Park household, although the wealthy family has no idea they’re all related. The families develop a symbiotic relationship: the Kims have found a steady stream of income, a way out of poverty and the Parks have all their needs — cooking, cleaning, driving, etc. — taken care of in the way that only an extravagantly rich family can.

But this isn’t a happy movie or a rags-to-riches story. This is a Bong Joon-ho movie. His 2013 film, “Snowpiercer,” tackles class struggles by adding a whole lot of violence and conflict to a fantasy world, and “Parasite” does it by adding suspense and horror to the real world. The film takes a turn in the third act too good to spoil in a review — you’ll have to watch this one yourself. The final act is as gruesome as it is crushing, a fitting end to the roller coaster ride of emotion that is the second half of the film.

“Parasite” lies somewhere between drama and horror; there’s one genuinely creepy scene that’ll be giving me nightmares for a while, but an overall lack of jump scares and monsters in the dark. It doesn’t have the pure terror of “Hereditary” or a twist as totally wild as “Get Out.” Still, “Parasite” ramps up the suspense in a few key moments while letting the overarching question — Can the Kims maintain their relationship with and hide their secret from the Parks to escape poverty? — inject the whole film with a feeling of anxiety. It’s gripping from beginning to end, all while delivering a powerful message on timely social issues like poverty, class resentment and wealth inequality.

“Parasite” was a huge hit in South Korea and has received acclaim at film festivals worldwide, winning the Palme d’Or, the highest award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. It debuts in theaters across the U.S. on Oct. 31 — it’s a good Halloween flick — and will likely be in contention for an Academy Award in February. If you want to stay in-the-know when it comes to trendy films in 2019 and also just see a great movie, you should definitely watch “Parasite.” 

Title: “Parasite”

Starring: Choi Woo-sik, Cho Yeo‑jeong, Park So‑dam

Director: Bong Joon-ho 

Genre: Drama/Thriller

If you like: “Get Out,” “Snowpiercer,” “Midsommar”

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

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About Ryan Israel

Ryan is the Former Scene Editor (2020-2021). He is currently washed up. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryizzy.

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