You would think Demi Moore's first film, the aptly titled "Parasite," would attract more attention from moviegoers. Actually, I accidentally saw a few minutes of Moore on one of those late night talk shows recently and the host "surprised" her with about thirty seconds of cheesy footage from this 1982 film. The actress took it all in good stride, giggling and squirming over her histrionic performance in the film. After having seen "Parasite" in its entirety, I would have to say Moore is one of the bright spots in the movie, a painful admission for me considering my dislike for most of this actress's work. What can you expect from a Charles Band film, though? Yep, the producer of such shlocky pap as "Laserblast," "Puppet Master," and "Blood Dolls" is the driving force behind "Parasite." As serious horror fans know, Band worked under the Empire Pictures label before starting Full Moon Productions several years later. Low budget cheese lovers have learned to adore many of Band's inept pictures; but then again, how can you ignore a guy who consistently used puppets, dolls, or midgets in his films. Band has some sort of fixation for miniatures, a mania put to good use here with the cheesy looking parasite thingies.
Set in the future world of 1992, "Parasite" tells the story of the hapless Doctor Paul Dean. Dean worked for the merchants, or minions of ruthless corporations whose goal is to turn the population of the United States into slaves. The doctor, who wrote a book on parasites, created a vicious type of organism for the merchants. Why? Who knows, but in the course of his work Dean becomes infected with one of these grotesque organisms and runs away from the merchants in order to seek a cure before it kills him. He heads to the small town of Joshua, located out in the desert, where he runs into a gang of miscreants led by an escaped merchant slave, an elderly hotel owner with a penchant for pancake makeup and huge wigs, a cranky gas station owner, a restaurant proprietor with a huge scar on his face, and Demi Moore. Moore, who of course will become the heroine of the film, grows lemons on a little farm outside of town. No one in town is particularly friendly to outsiders, especially one in as shaky and sweaty of a condition as the shambling Dean. The doctor knows he must work quickly if he is to kill the parasite before the merchants locate him and bring him back to the city.
But wouldn't you know it? Dean keeps another parasite in a metal container that the town thugs promptly steal and release with disastrous consequences. The parasite is a nasty looking creature, long and rubbery with huge teeth. The creature attaches itself to a person and proceeds to feed upon the victim until they turn into a shriveled up husk and die. Fortunately for Dean, the one residing in his abdomen is in hibernation due to periodic injections of some strange fluid. The doctor is the fortunate one since those unlucky enough to encounter the other parasite die in extraordinarily gruesome ways. Think John Hurt in "Alien," with the creature bursting out of stomachs and faces with the concomitant spray of saucy effects. The gore, more than any other element of "Parasite," helps move the film along.
We never learn just what went on in the outside world to bring about such an unfortunate series of events. One of the characters mentions in passing that he left New York City when the atomic debris raining out of the sky began killing people. We also notice that gasoline costs roughly fifty dollars a gallon, silver rather than paper currency is the only acceptable mode of exchange, and merchants carry around some cheesy looking laser wand that can cut off people's hands with seeming ease. Merchants also drive really nice Ferrari type cars with nifty doors that open upwards rather than outwards. It figures the corporate types would get all the perks in the future. The merchant who comes for Dean is a rough sort, a guy clad in a three piece suit who thinks little of slapping poor Demi around in order to get information. We learn from Dean that this is the guy who acted as liaison between the corporations and the government in the parasite program. The summary of the film sounds impressive, but almost nothing seems to happen in this movie. I had little idea what was going on until roughly forty-five minutes into the picture.
I kept thinking about Band's film "Laserblast" as I watched "Parasite." The two films share similar locales, both have a mysterious figure showing up and asking a lot of questions (the merchant here and a government agent in "Laserblast"), and both have some nice slow motion violence. In "Laserblast," we saw a lot of hilarious car explosions and fires from numerous camera angles. Regrettably, we don't see nearly enough of this type of action in "Parasite." Granted, we do get a funny slow motion fistfight scene in the beginning, along with a guy on fire towards the end, but no cars blow up here (probably due to a sluggish car market caused by the apocalypse). One thing we do get from this film is much better performances from the cast. All the actors do an acceptable, if occasionally goofy, job playing their parts. Moore stands out, not surprisingly, and even strikes a pose eerily reminiscent of her teary scene at the end of "Ghost" eight years later. "Parasite" is a worthwhile film for cheese lovers, although Moore fans might wish to avoid it and watch instead some of her (supposedly) worthier projects.