Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Parasite (1995)

Pack: Tomb of Terrors
Disc: 11

Subgenre(s): Sci-fi, Slasher

Year: 1995 (IMDb says 1997)

Rated: R
Length: 85 minutes

Director: Andy Froemke
Writer: Patrick Roddy
Starring: David Gaffney, Julia Matias, Robert Gerard

Synopsis: This chilling portrayal of the ultimate co-dependent relationship pairs sceptical scientist Richard Austin with the mysterious Helena Vohich, a powerful mesmerist who agrees to be the subject of Austin's experiments with the paranormal. The tables are turned when Professor Austin becomes the object of his own experiment. Vohich slowly takes over his life, controlling his every move by telepathic suggestion, and manipulating everything he has created: career, love and identity.


Review: Not to be confused with Charles Band's similarly named 1982 movie starring Demi Moore, this Parasite has more in common with Dreamscape (1984). It's not the government playing about with people's minds though, but a one-legged witch who uses Mesmerism to satisfy her carnal desires.

The idea sounds sillier than it actually is because, although Parasite looks like a very dated made-for-TV movie, the acting isn't too bad and it's competently directed. Since it was shot on film rather than video, it's a real movie rather than something knocked together one weekend for a quick buck.

Allegedly, Parasite sent writer/producer Patrick Roddy into bankruptcy. Even though he did things the right way, the cost of editing was financially crippling. It took some time for the movie to be completed and, obviously, it failed to get a distributor or it wouldn't be in "Tomb of Terrors". The whole story of what happened can be found in a Tucson Weekly article from 1998. It's quite interesting to read although Patrick Roddy hasn't really become the huge success that he hoped to. It's a sobering tale for anyone who thinks they can just make a film.

Two of the cast members, Tori Davis and Marissa Hall, have gone on to better things, but the former only has a "blink and you'll miss it" part in Parasite as a party guest. Marissa Hall has a much bigger role as Audrey, the Professor's fiancée, yet surprisingly she hasn't become famous either. Nearly everyone else seems to have disappeared without trace, but that's not surprising if they didn't get paid.

David Gaffney makes a good lead, but he is of questionable attractiveness to women even with his slightly Americanised Scottish accent. It's hard to believe that he has such a great looking (and young) fiancée and even harder to see what attraction he might hold for an equally beautiful witch. Suffice it to say that the latter is mentally unbalanced and desperate plus she only has one good leg. Her previous conquest is no great shakes either.

As a drama, the characters never go beyond two-dimensional in spite of the amount of time devoted to them. Sadly, most barely achieve one-dimension as they are all flat. That's fine for a horror movie, but as a horror movie, there's too much talk and isn't much action until the climax to compensate. If you are looking for scares, there aren't any, but some decent gore effects are a nice surprise. It's a pity that there isn't some real nudity during the sex scenes though. At least Marissa Hall bares a little bit of herself in the shower which is nice.

The main problem with Parasite is that, despite the best intentions, it's all a bit bland. There's nothing which really stands out except when you compare it with the weaker films in the "Tomb of Terrors" pack. Put up against a bigger horror movie from 1997, everything is too safe.

There are also several plot holes or, more simply, actions which just don't make any sense even within the internal logic of the story. Why does Professor Austin lock himself in one room when, as an educated man, he must realise that a wooden door won't stop mind control? Why does he randomly kill one of his former students? What does Professor Wilson have to do with it all, and why doesn't he inform the University that he has Professor Austin working on this "experiment" with him? The biggest questions are what does Professor Austin actually teach and when does he do it? It's a mystery how he keeps his job.

It doesn't pay to scrutinise Parasite too closely or you'll start to wonder why Helena Vohich (Julia Matias) only has one leg and only one outfit. Maybe she's on disability and can't afford anything which is why she lets scientists experiment on her. I hate it when things aren't explained.

The "twist" or "reveal" at the very end is a nice but somewhat clichéd touch which fails because there's nothing in the story previously to indicate that such a thing is possible. There are many times when movies go one step too far and this is one of them. It's fair enough to accept Mesmerism, telepathy and telekinesis, but body-hopping from beyond the grave is another thing entirely.

Parasite (or The Parasite if you want to give it the onscreen title rather than the one on the DVD sleeve) isn't groundbreaking or innovative, but it's entertaining and slightly shorter than a regular feature. It's not particularly bad nor particularly good. It's just somewhere in the middle of below average.

Most Memorable Moment(s): Richard viciously beating one of his former students (Aaron Caine) to death with a tire iron in a convenience store.

Originality: Based on a story of the same title by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Best Line(s): "You don't know what you're dealing with. She can make you do things."
Worst Line(s): "If you ever see Miss Vohich again, don't let her touch you."

Best Effect(s): Audrey's hands going inside Richard's chest during a dream sequence.
Worst Effect(s): Helena's glowing eyes.

Goriness (out of 10): 4
Sexiness (out of 10): 3
Profanities (out of 10): 1

Hottest Actor/Actress: Marissa Hall as Audrey.

Picture Quality: Average (4:3 ratio)
Audio Quality: Average

Rating (out of 10): 4

Trailer: None
IMDb or Wiki:

Final Thoughts: More talk than action, but nicely filmed.

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