It’s rare for a movie to combine cinematic fireworks and social commentary in quite the thrilling and mischievous way that Korean director Bong Joon-ho manages with Parasite, a slick home-invasion drama that mirrors the masks worn by its characters – polite until they drop the pretence. The director of The Host and Snowpiercer is no stranger to genre gymnastics, and here he tells the story of a poor Seoul family infiltrating the lives of a super-rich household through suspense, drama, laughs and farce, allowing moments of pure terror, quiet observation and baroque noise to sit happily alongside each other. It never jars as it glides from one state of being to the next.

The appeal of Parasite is simple and age-old – inequality, class, manners and how we behave to protect what’s ours – or to gain that which we believe should be ours. We meet a hard-up family living in a ‘semi-basement’ with a view of an alleyway.

The husband Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin) and their twentysomething kids, son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) and daughter (Ki-jung) are all scraping together a living doing odd jobs like constructing pizza boxes.

The film’s touchpaper is lit when Ki-woo fakes his CV and starts tutoring the daughter of a handsome rich young businessman Mr Park (Lee Sun-kyun) and his equally alluring and polished wife Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong). One by one, the rest of the family play the same game and infiltrate the Park household – the black humour of their parade of con jobs is a bit like watching Dennis Price knock off Alec Guinness’s alter egos in Kind Hearts and Coronets.

There’s a stretch where everything feels in equilibrium and the charade is working. But can it last? The Parks’ home feels like another character, and Bong indulges its slick lines and gleaming surfaces, before it starts to show another face entirely. It turns out our infiltrators may only have swapped one troubled basement for another: can you ever leave the past behind?

Boon Joon-Ho

January 16

By Dave Calhoun | 16 Jan 2020


DirectorBong Joon Ho
CastingKang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo