After a few detours and a couple of wrong turns, Marshal and his buddies find themselves stranded on Skid Row late one night. The three college kids are abducted by a group of homeless individuals who want to scare and harass the young men as a form of payback. Unfortunately, the harassment is taken too far and two of the kids are murdered. Marshal flees into the night with the homeless gang giving chase in order to stop him from going to the police.
The last time we heard from Chad Ferrin was in 2010 when “Someone’s Knocking at the Door” was released. Strangely, in the same year, we’ve gotten two new movies from him: “The Chair” and “Parasites”. “The Chair” felt like a different project for him since it was focused more on the psychology of its lead character — but we’ll get to that film in another review. “Parasites”, on the other hand, which has been gaining a lot of traction from the press lately, seems to be more akin to what we’ve seen from Chad.
After leaving a football game, Marshal and two of his buddies find themselves driving around downtown. Detours from road construction and a few wrong turns force the three young men deeper and deeper into the slums of the city at a time when gangs, hookers, and the homeless take over. A flat tire causes them to pull over and isn’t before long that a group of homeless people show up who don’t take kindly to strangers. Especially young ones. The young men are abducted by the gang of derelicts where they are then tortured and humiliated as form of retribution. Things are taken too far and soon Marshal finds himself running for his life after his friends are murdered. The homeless give chase in an attempt to stop him before he goes to the police. Unfortunately, it isn’t before long that Marshal discovers the cruelty towards those who live on the streets as he’s unable to find anyone who’s willing to help him.
Even though it’s been a few years since “Someone’s Knocking at the Door”, Chad Ferrin hasn’t skipped a beat with “Parasites”. From his experience with his former films, he takes advantage of his usual low-budget aesthetics to bring out the grimy nature of this film’s world. Probably more successfully in “Parasites” than in any of his other films, but this new film of his walks a fine line between exploitation-schlock and socio-political themed thriller. Although it’s hard to gauge how intentional the latter is.
Inspired by the story of John Colter (and subsequently, the film adaptations “The Naked Prey” and “Run of the Arrow”), who fled through the wilderness (naked) to escape the Native American Blackfeet tribe. “Parasites” uses the survive-the-night framework to weave a story that touches upon current issues within the social climate. Again, how intentional that was on Chad Ferrin’s part I’m not sure, or if it was simply a natural product of the story that's being told. Regardless, it never comes across as heavy-handed or as if that was the movie’s end goal. The downside to it is that it does create an odd juxtaposition with the rest of the film’s tone.
As previously stated, “Parasites” is a survive-the-night kind of movie. Our protagonist, Marshal (Sean Samuels), is forced into taking on the role of a homeless person in an attempt to evade the gang who wants him dead. This directly affects the various encounters Marshal has and the results are a thematically mixed bag. Sometimes the encounters fall into that socio-political spectrum where Marshal is harassed and assaulted by middle-class individuals. Or other times, Marshal runs into one of the homeless gang members and has to defend himself — these scenes themselves are mixed as well. Sometimes they’re brutally serious in their depiction of violence and death, and other times, they come off as bit schlocky.
Even so, “Parasites” is still a strong movie due to the overall concept and execution of the story. Not to mention, both Sean Samuels and Robert Miano do a phenomenal job as the central characters. What works especially well for the movie is that it is unabashedly exploitive. Taking John Colter’s story and dropping into modern times made it perfect for that kind of genre filmmaking. And with Chad Ferrin’s past films, he can hit that perfect note and make scenes unpleasantly grimy and gruesome. Where the film starts to waver, in my opinion, is when the tone changes. That could be attributed to some expectations I put on the film since “Parasites” isn’t that much different from “Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!”. But the reason I say it starts to waver is that while there are those perfectly toned dark moments, there are other moments that come off as a bit comical. Or, at the very least, darkly humorous in comparison. Mix that in with the few times where it feels like the movie is trying to deliver some form of social commentary, it begins to feel as though there is a competing tone within the film.
Although, honestly, I think the shifts in tone is a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things because it never goes so far as to hurt the movie or disrupt the viewing experience. At the end of the day, Chad Ferrin and Co. put together a fine piece of modern day exploitation that, at times, manages to be both unpleasant and entertaining. And for me, one thing that I really enjoyed about “Parasites” is that it was very different from his last two movies. Yes, it is similar to “Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!” but there’s a difference between “Someone’s Knocking at the Door”, “The Chair”, and “Parasites”. It’s great to see a director willing to experiment and try something new — or at the very least have each project have their own personalities. If "Horses" is indeed his next project it'll be interesting to see where he goes with that film.