“I thought they’d gentrified this shit already.” Three college students lost in downtown LA are about to have a very bad night, and they’re about to learn just how far their privilege gets them.
Marshal (Sean Samuels) is driving his two friends through a rough part of town when they get lost, and suddenly end up at the mercy of a gang of homeless men and women who want to teach them a lesson. Things escalate quickly, leaving the two passengers dead and Marshal sprinting naked through the night with his attackers in hot pursuit.
Chad Ferrin’s blistering tribute to 70s and 80s urban exploitation cinema, which played at Fantasia Film Festival, makes up for what it lacks in budget with a tremendous amount of energy, ingenuity and anger. Once the first moment of shocking bloody violence has taken place, the film simply does not let up as Marshal runs for his life, fights, and starts running again. Ferrin makes his budget and location work in his favour as hand-held camerawork allows the viewer to focus on Samuels’ excellent performance and the sheer hopelessness of his character’s situation.
It’s clearly influenced by The Warriors, Night Of The Living Dead and the films of John Carpenter in the way that the movie looks, the relentlessness of the chase, and the brutal relevance of the themes. What starts as a commentary on the way we view the people who live out of sight on our streets quickly broadens its scope. Watching a young black man running naked through the streets in desperate need of help, only to be assaulted, mocked or ignored at every turn, packs a hell of an impact. When he does find clothes, his t-shirt reads “I’m so glad you’re alive.” Meanwhile, the merciless leader of Marshal’s pursuers (veteran character actor Robert Milano) spits an endless torrent of racist and sexist abuse at his followers, and there’s an unmistakable sense of dread that accompanies the prospect of eventual police intervention.
It does start to lose steam around the hour mark as new characters are introduced and Ferrin’s dialogue doesn’t match his chase sequences in terms of quality. It should also be noted that his obvious love of schlock cinema, with lots of gore and some characters that topple into stock type (not to mention an appearance from Day Of The Dead’s Joseph Pilato and a character called Officer Spinell), may alienate some viewers, but the finale absolutely packs a punch. The excellent soundtrack also deserves high praise, with some fantastic mournful covers of old favourites adding another caustic layer to the film’s fury.
There are elements that don’t really work and even at 81 minutes it starts to push its welcome a little, but there’s no denying Parasites‘ raw power. This is fierce stuff.