They say that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. Demi Moore is an actress who has seen her share of lemons throughout her career. After all, this is the actress who saw the scripts for St. Elmo’s Fire, Nothing But Trouble, Disclosure and The Juror and said “Yes! This is the project I want to get involved with!” Demi should have learned something from this early training film from Embassy Pictures, Charles Band’s pre-Full Moon company from the days when you could still get a crappy little sci-fi/horror film distributed to theaters, rather than direct-to-video.
In Parasite, the whole world has had a giant lemon tossed to it. Most of the population of Earth has been wiped out and civilization has been almost completely destroyed by what is vaguely described as “atomic stuff falling from the sky.” Like many low-budget features released after the worldwide success of The Road Warrior. Parasite takes place in a world sometime after the Apocalypse in the Not So Distant Future. Next Sunday A.D. The End Times. In other words, the early 1990s.
There were so many of these films made that they formed a new sub-genre, kind of like Westerns, only cheaper because they didn’t need horses or period costumes. Filmmakers could film one of these babies in any junkyard, and frequently did. Lots of them should’ve stayed there, too.
In the inexpensive nightmare world of 1992, we find the roving man with a mission: Dr. Paul Dean, well played by big-eyed actor Robert Glaudini. Dean is a geneticist who has just gone AWOL from his job for the Xyrex Corporation, which is likely the last big evil corporate giant still running in America. It seems Paul has recently had second thoughts about developing flesh-eating parasites for his bosses, fearing they might use them unethically. It’s never fully explained what the real reason for making these parasites is — perhaps a plague has wiped out all cats and dogs and it’s hoped people will adopt them as pets. In any case, Dean takes the parasite and goes on the lam.
Unfortunately, Dr. Dean thoughtlessly infects himself with the bug, growing a nasty, pulpy lump on his stomach. Serum injections slow its growth, but Paul needs to find a quiet place to study the more mature parasite in order to find a complete cure.
But there’s not many quiet places left in a world beset by roving gangs and corporate goons. Dean holes up in a small town hotel run by Vivian Blaine. Back in the ’40s, Blaine was starring in pictures like State Fair and Doll Face, but Band has her basically playing a parody of Bette Davis’ “Baby Jane” here, complete with pin-ups of herself on the walls.
Dean’s stay at the hotel is slightly reminiscent of the early scenes in James Whale’s The Invisible Man, with the scientist on the run desperately searching for “a way back.” Venturing out to find a bite to eat at the local diner run by one Collins (Al Fann, who some may remember as the voice of “Rickety Rocket” on The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show), Dean is accosted by the local teen gang led by large-headed Ricus (Luca Bercovici, whose busy career has also included writing and directing Ghoulies, Rockula, and more recently The Chain).
Dean is rescued by pistol-packin’ Demi, who has taken my little opening chestnut to heart. She’s the local lemon farmer who has just stopped by to deliver some lemonade to Collins. They escape back to her farm, where she cheers Dean up with some fresh lemon tea and lemon meringue pie.
Meanwhile, Rickus and his gang, who have noticed that Dean arrived driving an ambulance, decide to ransack his room looking for drugs. Instead they find what looks like a big thermos, but instead of cinnamon-brewed coffee or perhaps lentil soup, Dean has been carrying the parasite around in it. The honor of opening the thermos goes to Ricus’ right hand man Zeke, who is played by Tom Villard. The title monster jumps out and starts sucking the life out of poor Zeke. The following slow death and consumption of Zeke may be uncomfortably ironic for some viewers due to Villard’s untimely AIDS death in 1994. If you find yourself a bit depressed, I might suggest you take some time to review Villard’s legacy, appearing in many obnoxious roles in films such as One Crazy Summer, The Trouble with Dick, Popcorn, Surf 2, or the TV series We Got It Made. It might just give you some comfort.
When it gets through with Villard, the beast jumps on ex-Runaways singer Cherie Currie, at which point Rickus thinks they ought to find a doctor. After all, there’s only one other blonde left in the movie, and that one’s a crazy woman (played by Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith, famous for playing cheerleaders in ’70s drive-in sex movies).
Also looking for Dean is Xyrex goon Wolf (James Davidson), who has been sent to track down the parasite. I also suspect Dean stole some office supplies on his way out. Band must have been very proud of Wolf’s fancy electric car — there’s shot after shot of Wolf getting in and out of it via its vertical door. Even though it’s supposed to be electric, Wolf even stops to fill it up with gas, just so we can see him get in and out of it. Wolf also has a cool laser pointer that works sort of like a lightsaber, and wears one glove because he identifies with Michael Jackson.
The action continues in the most cost-efficient manner possible, with the leads all running around trying to kill each other for no good reason while the parasite chows down on folks and explodes through their heads. Stan Winston designed some of the creature effects, but he probably took this one off his resume after Jurassic Park and Terminator 2.
Full Moon has given the film an acceptable transfer, although since this is a widescreen film you’d think Band would give his own framing its due by releasing it that way on DVD. They probably just used the same master as their VHS release. The disc includes short bio/filmographies for some of the cast. There’s also a pile of trailers, including ones for Creepazoids, Cannibal Women in the Avacado Jungle of Death, and a bunch of movies with either “Babes” or “Bimbos” in the title.