Release Date(s)2019 (January 28, 2020)
Studio(s)Barunson E&A/TMS/CJ Entertainment/Neon (Universal)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C
Kim Ki-taek (played by Song Kang-ho from Snowpiercer) is a troubled man. He and his family live in South Korea, not exactly in poverty but certainly hand-to-mouth. They’re working class, with few prospects for moving up in the world… at least not by traditional means. But Ki-taek is a clever man and he knows an opportunity when he sees one. What’s more, he and his wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin) have passed on these skills to their children, including son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and daughter Ki-jeong (Park So-dam).
So when Ki-woo’s friend Min-hyuk leaves to study aboard, he asks Ki-woo to take over his job… tutoring Da-hye, the daughter of the wealthy Park family. Ki-woo knows nothing about tutoring, but he does know how to fake it. And fortunately, Da-hye’s mother Yeon-gyo (Cho Yeo-jeong) isn’t exactly sharp. She takes to Ki-woo quickly and hires him for the job. Of course, it’s not long before Ki-woo spots additional opportunities in the household for his family. Through cunning and deception, Ki-jeong, Ki-taek, and Chung-sook soon take jobs with the Parks too, ousting others who were already in those positions. Mr. Park (Lee Sun-kyun) has no idea that his family has been taken advantage of by another, but for a time all is well. Soon, however, complications arise that could not only thwart the Kims’ plans, but change the lives of both families forever.
Written and directed by Bong Joon-ho (best known for The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja), Parasite is not only a fresh and insidious dark comedy thriller, it’s a relevant and devastating critique on class structures in wealthy societies. The use of the word ‘parasite’ in the title refers not only to the Kim family, as they infiltrate a more affluent household, but also to the Parks, who are almost completely unable to do traditional work and rely upon their hired help to survive. Both thematically and visually, this is a story of people changing levels... and what goes up can always fall down. If you’ve seen Bong’s previous films, you’ll know that he’s a masterful director who knows how to build tension and carry suspense. And his cast here is terrific across the board.
Parasite was shot digitally in the ARRIRAW codec (at 6.5K) using Arri Alexa 65 cameras and Hasselblad Prime DNA lenses. It was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate and downsampled to 1080p HD for its Blu-ray release at the 2.39:1 scope aspect ratio. As such, the film looks fantastic on disc—not as good as actual 4K with HDR might, but the fine detail, color fidelity, and contrast here are all very pleasing. Visually, the color palette is rich and nuanced. As Blu-rays go, this image is impressive.
Primary audio is presented in the original Korean in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio format. I wouldn’t say that this is a film that really tests your audio system, but the soundstage is big, wide, and natural, with a great deal of ambience and firm low end. There isn’t a lot in the way of surround play or movement, but the clarity of the dialogue and music is excellent. Naturally, optional English subtitles are available and are the default option.
Neon and Universal’s Blu-ray includes the following bonus features (all in HD):
- Fantastic Fest 2019 Q&A with Director Bong Joon-ho (19:03)
- Trailer #1 (2:22)
- Trailer #2 (2:03)
The Q&A is interesting, if somewhat brief. Bong discusses the themes in his film and answers questions from his audience with the help of a translator. There are also two trailers, both quite good. One could wish for more extras, but the film really does stand on its own. You do at least get a Digital code on a paper insert.
Parasite surprised many by earning a Best Picture nomination for this year’s Academy Awards. Having now seen all of the other nominees in that category (all of them quite solid, I might add), not only does the film deserve its nomination, I actually think it could win. Parasite is an unexpected gem and well worth your time on Blu-ray. My only wish is that Neon and Universal would consider releasing it on physical 4K Ultra HD as well. Highly recommended.
- Bill Hunt