Parasyte: Part 1 (2014)

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An enjoyable mix of body horror and sci-fi, Parasyte: Part 1 is typical of the entertaining ridiculousness that Japanese cinema can so often provide. Trust me, when I start to describe the plot you may well begin to laugh. Or at least smirk. And you’ll feel the same way while watching the movie. But then it just keeps moving forward, treating everything with just the right mix of seriousness and humour, until everything builds to a genuinely interesting and satisfying finale.

The human race is about to be invaded by parasites. The strange creatures go in through the ear and get to the brain, taking over their host and using the body to then feed off other humans, leaving some strangely malformed corpses in their wake. A young high school student named Shinichi (Shota Sometani) is lucky enough to be listening to his iPod when a parasite tries to invade him. After a small struggle, the creature enters his right hand, where it then has to stay. Revealing itself to Shinichi, the parasite tries to figure out how best to move forward. It needs to keep Shinichi alive, but that could prove difficult when other parasites see him as nothing more than a risk that would be best silenced by death.

Yes, this is basically a movie about a young man who ends up reviled by, yet also reliant upon, his right hand. Make of that what you will. Director Takashi Yamazaki (who also co-wrote the script with Ryota Kosawa, based on manga material by Hitoshi Iwaaki) doesn’t focus so much on the obvious jokes, aside from one scene with Shinichi bathing, but instead opts to keep the thrills and fun, eye-popping, special effects front and centre.

While the performances are all perfectly fine, with Eri Fukatsu and Ai Hashimoto both particularly good as two very different females who affect Shinichi, this is a film that moves stealthily from a baseline of pulpy entertainment to become an exploration of identity and humanity. We’ve seen it done many times before, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable when done so well. That’s maybe because this time around many of the discussions take place between a mutated right hand and his host human, or maybe because the pacing ensures that viewers are never far away from seeing another monstrosity warp a human body into whatever shape it finds most suitable to eat its next meal.

Personally, I’m already looking forward to what we’ll be getting in part 2. I just hope that I don’t have to wait too long until it’s available here in the UK, considering that it has already been completed and made available to some.

Parasyte: Part 1 is screening at EIFF 2015 on 25th and 26th June.

DIRECTOR: TAKASHI YAMAZAKI
WRITER: RYOTA KOSAWA, TAKASHI YAMAZAKI (MANGA BY HITOSHI IWAAKI)
STARS: SHOTA SOMETANI, ERI FUKATSU, AI HASHIMOTO, KAZUKI KITAMURA, MASAHIRO HIGASHIDE
RUNTIME: 109 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: JAPAN

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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