Class issues create the horror in Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite”

Updated: Apr 2


4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS

(1) "Parasite" follows the lives of two diverse South Korean families. The Parks live in a luxurious world and celebrate their son's birthday. (2) Ki-woo Kim (Choi Woo-shik) from a working-class family looks down on the party from the Parks' teenage daughter's Da-hye (Jung Ziso) bedroom. He's been her English tutor.


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4K frame shots courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment


“PARASITE”


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; R for language, some violence, and sexual content; Streaming via (buy & rent) Amazon Prime Video, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)


Best extra: Only extra is a Q&A with director/co-writer Bong Joon Ho
















A DELICIOUSLY wicked class conflict is at the crux of “Parasite,” Korean writer/director Bong Joon Ho’s (“Okja,” “Snowpiercer”) masterpiece of horror comedy. Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best International, Director, and Original Screenplay, the film is mesmerizing in its laser focus on the lives of two families and their doomed intermingling.


We meet the down-on-its-luck working-class Kim family first as they struggle with basement living, stolen WiFi, and general squalor. Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), the father, is out of work, as is his wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin). Their teenaged children are daughter Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) and son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik). Ki-woo’s friend Min (Seo-joon Park) tells him about a pretty high school girl he’s been tutoring in English, with whom he’s fallen in love. Min is leaving the country to go to university and asks Ki-woo to take over as tutor in Min’s absence.


(1) Daughter Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) and son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) can only access free WiFi near their front window and toilet. (2) Ki-taek Kim (Song Kang-ho) is surprised by his daughter's computer skills, after he sees the faked résumé she made for her brother. (3) Ki-woo's introduction to Mrs. Park (Cho Yeo Jeong) and the family's luxurious home. (4) Meeting his charming English student, Da-hye (Jung Ziso). 




Ki-woo jumps at the chance to earn some money for the family, forges his credentials and is introduced to the luxurious world of the Park family. The parents, Dong-ik (Lee Sun Kyun) and Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo Jeong), are supremely fashionable and attractive, while their children, daughter Da-hye (Jung Ziso) and Da-song (Hyun-jun Jung), seem like neglected afterthoughts. The household is run by the hired help, and Ki-woo, dazzled by the wealth of the Parks, soon devises a scheme to replace the current staff with members of his struggling family. Thanks to Da-Hye’s immediate attraction to Ki-woo, she convinces her parents to hire Ki-woo’s sister as an art tutor for Da-song, while some nasty scheming results in the Parks’ driver and housekeeper being replaced by Mr. and Mrs. Kim. The Parks, of course, have no idea their new hires are in any way related to each other, resulting in the above-mentioned moments of humor and, eventually, gruesome horror.


VIDEO/AUDIO

Universal Studios released the outstanding 4K version with HDR10 exclusively on digital platforms, a trend that’s starting to dominate the U.S. home entertainment industry. The physical 4K disc is only being released in Germany and France at this point, but only that country’s subtitles are available.


Right for the start, there is a major bump in pin-point detail in the 4K, sourced from 6.5K digital cameras, and nicely mastered in true 4K. Plus it features brilliant color saturation, natural skin tones, with expansive HDR contrast levels. The HD version holds up well on smaller screens, but lacks the overall onscreen pop and wider color palette.


(1) Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) begins her interview to be an art tutor for the Parks' little boy, as the housekeeper, Moon-gwang (Jeong-eun Lee) looks on. (2) Mr. Kim (Song Kang-ho), is the new Park family driver. (3) Mr. Park tells Mrs. Park about something he found under the seat of their Mercedes Benz. (4) Ki-jeong picks up the housekeepers forbidden fruit at a local market.





Hopefully, Universal will release a 4K disc in the U.S., much like they did two years ago when the 4K discs of “Darkest Hour” and “Phantom Thread” both arrived weeks after the digital and Blu-ray release.


The audio on the Blu-ray provides the superior DTS-HD Master Audio six-channel soundtrack, compared to the compressed audio on digital platforms. Sound effects are perfectly balanced and the score by Jaeil Jung provides excellent support for the action. The dialogue of “Parasite” is in Korean, so English subtitles are provided.


EXTRAS

The only bonus provided on digital and Blu-ray is a Q&A with Bong Joon Ho, speaking via a translator, onstage at a 2019 film festival. Bong discusses the separation of the classes in Korean society, but says it’s true in all countries: “We all live in this one big nation of capitalism.” He talks about the number of staircases in the film’s sets, symbolizing societal divisions with the characters’ journeys up and down the stairs. Asked about the rather explicit sex scene between Mr. and Mrs. Park, Bong replies that he didn’t put it there for its eroticism, but to maintain “the overall flow” of the story – in which the Kim family “looks closely at the lives of the other one.”


(1) 1. Mrs. Park and Mr. Kim see the housekeeper's allergic reaction to the fruit. (2) Without a housekeeper, Mrs. Park is clueless about how to do household chores. (3&4) With the Park family away on a camping trip, the Kims enjoy their employers' fancy house. Mrs. Kim a former Olympic hammer thrower practices her swing and the metal ball hits a neighbors house.




Bong notes how unusual it is for different economic stratas of people to be close enough to smell one another, citing the separate classes on airplanes. The sex scene was “more about the Kim family hiding under the table,” offering a “strange intimacy” which makes for a “powerful tension.”


Bong relates that when he was in college, he tutored a wealthy middle school boy, who showed off the family’s in-house sauna to him. Bong talks about the set design and that he had the basic idea for the two families’ homes in mind when he wrote the screenplay. He felt the sets would “help tell the narrative structure of the story.” Bong says the set for the Kim family’s basement apartment, which gets flooded along with the rest of the neighborhood, had to be built inside a huge swimming pool, which was filled with water and fake sewage.

When asked about the film’s title, Bong says it refers to both families: “The poor family infiltrates the rich one … but the rich family is also parasitic; they’re helpless and leech off the poor family’s labor.” In conclusion, Bong says he “never intended to create a propaganda film … the issue of class surrounds us in our daily lives.”


The director compares “Parasite” to films like “Us” and “Shoplifter,” but one could easily add “Get Out,” “The Chambermaid,” and “Roma” to that list.


— Peggy Earle


(1) More celebrating in the absence of the Parks. (2) The former housekeeper and her husband (Myeong-hoon Park), who's been living in the hidden bomb shelter. (3) Ki-woo tries to delete the video the former housekeeper captured showing the Parks employees are from the same family. (4) The camping trip was rained out, so Mr. & Mrs. Park ended up sleeping on their living room sofa so they can watch their son camping in his Indian tipi. (5) The Kims, after their disastrous run-in with Moon-gwang and her husband.





(1) The next morning, Mr. Park checks on his son. (2) Da-Hye has a crush on her tutor. (3) Pandemonium breaks out during Da-song's birthday party. (4) Mr. Kim is shocked by his actions and violence.





Months later, Ki-woo Kim dreams that one day he'll own the Parks' spacious empty home.




TRAILER




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