Director: Chad Ferrin
Writer: Chad Ferrin
Stars: Robert Miano, Sean Samuels, Jospeh Pilato
There is something commendable about Chad Ferrin’s ambitious - albeit bizarre and uneven – new film Parasites. This low-budget fare takes on blockbuster themes of police violence, Los Angeles’ ongoing homeless problem, and blacksploitation (vis-à-vis film nostalgia wrapped with Black Lives Matter). More importantly, it’s an entertaining endeavor, but one that left me wondering if it was at all 1) necessary and 2) a meaningful contribution to the arts in such uncertain times.
The story focuses on three USC students – one of whom is the freshman star quarterback Marshal Colter (Sean Samuels), the black man in a strange land accompanied by his native white friends – who are all out on a joy ride through downtown Los Angeles. A wrong turn leads them to the underbelly of the city: the infamous Skid Row. In horror movie fashion, the boys’ SUV is impaired by a flat tire, and suddenly a gang of homeless men and women armed with pipes and shovels (a nice throwback to The Warriors) greet them with wicked laughs and cruel intentions.
Wilco (Robert Miano), the leader of the gang, orders the death of Marshal’s friends, and a brutal act of unnecessary violence is accompanied by class-based insults of privilege and lazy bums. Marshal manages to escape before he meets a similar fate, leading to a roughly 60-minute chase through a seemingly abandoned downtown (Marshal runs only into gang members, pimps and prostitutes).
At times, the chase between the bums and Marshal is laughable, but at others quite serious. When Marshal first escapes, he is stripped naked by one of the homeless men, who then proceeds to chase him with a chain, like a master recapturing his slave. The crude symbolism becomes more obvious when a dog is ordered to “sic em,” and Marshal must move quickly, bare from head to toe, along Los Angeles' concrete river (can you say wade through the water?) While being chased by master and hound, Marshal finds a rebar which uncannily looks like a spear and viciously penetrates the dog in a series of fatal blows until the K9 looks like nothing more than wasted road kill.
It is scenes like these that make Parasites a far more interesting film than a good one. Ferrin is clearly using his indie-space to tell a story that parallels The Purge series, but perhaps more tendentiously and with mixed results. The acting of the pimp, prostitute, and Chicano gang members are stale and cliché, and the gratuitous death scenes are hampered by cheesy effects that detract from any intended seriousness. Still, saving graces include an excellent performance by Samuels, the frenetic pacing and direction by Griffin, and a soundtrack that is part Terminator (1984) and all 80s-techno cool.
Eric Dinsmore | Twitter: @dinsmorality
Images: IMDb & Justin Cook PR