Friday, 11 September 2015

hell's mouth (a.k.a. parasite)

so a few weeks ago, my friend chris sent me this dvd as a prize for commenting on one of his youtube videos. and it was kind of a joke and i don't think he thought i'd actually watch it, but the truth is it was pretty good and worth writing about here.

so it's about this team of specialist cleaners (how many films feature a team of cleaners as their protagonists? there's session 9, i suppose, although they're more asbestos removal ... that's another blog for another day) tasked with cleaning an oil rig with an experimental new cleaning substance. except they mix it wrong and rather than killing bacteria it mutates it into giant bacteria snake things that spit acid and eat people. basically, it's alien on an oil rig.

what makes it work is that the characters are actually kind of interesting. firstly, there are three female characters including a no-nonsense corporate scientist, a super-experienced engineer and an environmental activist. that's pretty amazing even by today's standards, and even when the engineer has a shower scene she's in there with one of the guys so at least it's equal opportunities nudity. by comparison, the men in the film are all pretty dull to the point where it's difficult to tell a couple of them apart. however, rather than a criticism this only serves to enhance the unique qualities of the female characters. of course, alien did this too and did it better but for a low-budget horror film i was pretty impressed by the filmmakers' commitment to gender equality.

the other pretty cool feature here is the creature effects. there's a mix of practical effects and cgi, with the former being the most effective, but considering the presumed low budget the cgi isn't so bad either. sure, it looks like a ps1 cut-scene a lot of the time, but it does what it needs to for the narrative and at times it's really effective.

it's hard to place where the film falls down, but it felt like there was something missing, like the narrative never really holds together. the story is no more complicated than that of alien - the characters arrive, they find the monster, they have to escape - but it feels like it's lacking something. i was never 100% clear what the characters were trying to do, or what the sinister corporation was trying to do by developing the monster-creating chemicals, which seemed to be intentional. i wasn't sure who to root for a lot of the time and that can be a good thing if played right, but here it felt like a mistake. and ultimately it didn't feel like they were in all that much peril because as isolated as an oil rig is, it's not outer space and i'm not sure oil rigs really do have escape pods.

that said, there are three reasons to watch this film - it's british (and while i don't consider myself a nationalist i do like to see british films that aren't set in country manors or on housing estates once in a while), it had women doing stuff and the effects weren't bad so that's three wins as far as i'm concerned.

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