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You know what they say, right…everybody has to start somewhere. For many young actors, that somewhere is horror movies. Actually, cheap horror movies would be more accurate. These films are always looking for attractive young actors and actresses looking for their first big break. In 1982, a young Demi Moore certainly fit that bill. She got her first big break from director Charles Band, who would go on to create Full Moon Features, home of the Puppet Master series and many other low-budget horror flicks. That was all in the future, though. First there would be this post-apocalyptic tale of a man and the monster living inside him…Parasite.
The story focuses on Dr. Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini), a scientist in the near future of 1992 on the run from the organization he once worked for. He comes to to the desolate town of Joshua, driving an ambulance and carrying with him a strange container. But the good doctor is carrying something else, too. There is a strange pulsing glob of some sort on his stomach. Now, Joshua isn’t exactly a peaceful place. There is a local gang of street toughs led by a guy called Riccus (Luca Bercovici) that are always causing problems for the peaceful folk, including a lovely lemon grower named Patricia (Demi Moore). Eventually, Riccus and his gang decide to kidnap Paul, figuring he must have drugs in his ambulance. Stupidly, a thug named Zeke (Tom Villard) opens up the mysterious container and ends up with giant gooey worm of some sort attached to him.
The creature is a parasite developed by an evil organization known as the Merchants, with the help of scientists like Paul, as something that could be used to control the remaining population of the world. Paul, seeing how deadly the parasites were, escaped to research on one and find a way to stop them. That’s not going to be easy, though, as the escaped parasite is growing rapidly and knocking off Riccus’ gang one by one. Things are made more difficult thanks to a Merchant called Wolf (James Davidson) who is out to kill Paul and bring back deadly creature…which is gradually becoming much bigger and much more toothy.
Parasite is not a terribly good movie, but I do admire its ambition on a certain level. It’s a horror movie that takes some elements of Alien and mixes it with a slightly Mad Max vibe to create a somewhat interesting scenario. I fear, though, that the filmmakers ideas didn’t quite match up with their pocket book. Other than a few cheap laser guns, there’s not much that is done to really give the film a futuristic feel. The film also has a very claustrophobic feel, looking like all of it was shot in a fifty square foot patch of land somewhere in the vicinity of the Manson family’s Spahn Ranch. Considering that the film deals with a sinister post-apocalyptic organization trying to control people with slimey parasites, putting a bit more into world building would’ve gone a long way.
On the plus side, said parasite is effectively gross. The way it latches onto people is like the leech scene from Stand By Me taken to a way more horrific level. Eventually the thing sports a grotesque set of teeth that always seem to be blood-soaked. It’s a disgusting little bugger. When it does start doing some real damage, it’s grody. I mean, the xenomorph from Alien busts out of people’s chests, but at one point this toothy worm busts through one of its victim’s craniums. Some of the attack scenes do plays a bit strange as Parasite was originally released in 3-D, which explains why many of the the creature attack scenes have it flying, or falling, right into the camera. It does take quite a while for the monster action to kick into gear, though. When the monster isn’t factoring into a scene, the film is really stale.
Now, the big question, of course, is how does Miss Moore do in one of her first big screen roles? Her career certainly went beyond the success of some of the others in the St. Elmo’s crowd, but I don’t know that she was ever really considered one of the most skilled actors of that group. In this early outing, though, she’s actually pretty good. Her performance is probably the one thing that keeps the film somewhat rooted despite all the teeth and puss and stuff. Paul Deen is fine as the troubled scientist, though the chief acting skill he displays throughout the film seems to be the ability to sweat all the time. I did also get a kick out of seeing Tom Villard in this; a familiar face from movies like One Crazy Summer and classic bad TV like We Got it Maid.
Parasite does offer a few moments that will certainly appeal to fans of low-budget 80’s horror, but it’s a film that doesn’t offer a whole lot to write home about. It’s got a cheesy and gross monster, and young Demi Moore is cute and shows a certain degree of acting talent, but much of the rest of the movie is pretty flat.