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Parasyte: Part 1 - Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan 2014

Sci-Fi, Horror, Comedy

Takashi Yamazaki

Shota Sometani
Eri Fukatsu
Sadao Abe
Ai Hashimoto
Masahiro Higashide
Nao Omori
Jun Kunimura
Kazuki Kitamura
Kimiko Yo

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Parasyte: Part 1

Story: Aliens start to infiltrate a town in the shape of parasytes. Normally, they take possession of their host's brain, but Shinichi Izumi (Shota Sometani) manages to fight off the parasyte and so it ends up in his hand. Shinichi is shocked when after that his hand starts talking to him. As Migi (Sadao Abe), which is how his right hand introduces itself to him, has explained their future symbiotic relationship to the boy, the news constantly report about gruesome murders. The parasytes have already taken over numerous individuals and humans serve as their food source. The teacher Ryoko Tamiya (Eri Fukatsu) is also under the control of a parasyte and since the parasytes can sense each other she informs Shinichi that she is from now on working at his school and is holding his whole class hostage, his friend Satomi (Ai Hashimoto) included. Ryoko has no interest in attracting attention among humans and is doing research on how to conceal themselves better, while also eating less humans than her parasyte friends. But a human life isn't worth anything to her either and Shinichi slowly has to ask himself if it isn't his duty as someone who is in the know of the invasion to do something about it. Only Migi could lend him a helping hand...

Review: The hype surrounding "Parasyte" was quite enormous and this even though the trailer in fact looked somewhat goofy. Surprisingly, the movie keeps its promises - and even more. Thin threads of a black comedy run through an otherwise serious sci-fi/horror flick, that stands as a refreshing reinterpretation of the classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" by Don Siegal or the body horror movies of David Cronenberg or John Carpenter. There are a few flaws, for example the fact that "Parasyte: Part 1" is solely the prelude of a two-parter and thus comes along as one giant introduction, which means some viewers might find the action lacking. But it's nice to see that a director takes some time to flesh out his characters, especially in a sci-fi movie. This might not only pay off in the second installment, but already does in the second half of this movie.

Parasyte: Part 1 - Film Screenshot 11

The story is based on the manga series "Kiseiju" by Hitoshi Iwaaki. Being particularly impressive is Shinichi, who comes across as a complex individual. The many facets of the protagonist are the key of the movie's success and the slow change from a shy high schooler to a hero with superhuman skills, while Shinichi's symbiosis with the alien organism more and more eradicates his emotions, is full of serious drama. Shota Sometani ("Himizu") deserves some big kudos for his sophisticated acting. He manages to carry the odd comedic scenes at the beginning as convincingly as the moments in which he almost cracks as a human being and slowly mutates to something different because of the foreign cells in his body.

Parasyte: Part 1 - Film Screenshot 12

But there are also some interesting personalities among the parasytes. Female teacher Ryoko, played by Eri Fukatsu ("Villain"), considers herself to be a researcher and although she kills humans as well she seems to be looking for a way to avoid this in the future, especially in order not to attract so much attention. When she becomes pregnant a new element is brought into play: You could almost think that she gets a few human qualities. Unfortunately, the story around Shinichi's possible love interest, embodied by Ai Hashimoto ("The Kirishima Thing"), seems integrated into the film rather heavy-handedly. The girl seems to be merely a gear in the story that serves the hero as a damsel in distress to save. Here, some more character elaboration would have been desirable, even the more as she certainly will be in need of some more saving in the second installment.

Director Takashi Yamazaki has already proven his weakness for sci-fi films like in "Returner" or "Space Battleship Yamamoto". Therefore, he knows about the necessity of good special effects in order to carry such a story. The special effects in "Parasyte" are good all the way throughout, even though it can't be denied that the heads unfolding can be considered almost absurd concerning the inventiveness depicted. The polished look of Shinichi's hand parasyte on the other hand often looks goofy and probably underlines the film's black humor as well. You could almost think that Migi was supposed to be merchandised and thus needed to look somewhat cute. If you would randomly channel-surf into the movie this would probably spark more alienation than it does when watching the picture as a whole. Even the more as it needs to be stressed that the special effects in fact look even better the more inventive the situation. Moreover, the director deserves some credit for the fact that for some body parts as well as the blood physical special effects have been used, which might also be considered a tribute to the cult movies of the body horror genre.

Parasyte: Part 1 - Film Screenshot 13

"Parasyte: Part 1" can be gory and gruesome. But never to such a degree that a mainstream audience would be put off by it. Then again we get to see the result of a true massacre at a school... But here it is the same case as with the element of black humor and the serious sci-fi horror: It is a tightrope he walks on, but director Takashi Yamazaki doesn't trip. Technically, the picture is top-notch, gritty scenes take turns with high school moments, but the more action-heavy ending as well as the soundtrack by Naoki Sato, who makes use of his main theme one time too many, leave no doubt that the small frame of the first installment is only the prelude to an epic sequel. The innovative action towards the end and the focus on the drama revolving around an interesting hero already make "Parasyte: Part 1" stand as a well-achieved sci-fi/horror flick on its own. However, it needs to be pointed out that some fans of the manga see this a bit different - still, up until now I couldn't compare the two.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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