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Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, Okja) writes and directs Parasite (2019), a darkly comic thriller. Bong and screenplay co-writer Han Jin-won explore the intersection of those on opposite ends of the poverty and wealth gap. Already awarded the Palme d’Or and six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, this film may seem like something that wouldn’t fit into the Haunted MTL canon. Impressions can be deceiving, however. Parasite is a ghost story and the specter is poverty.

Parasite follows the Kim family, a basement-dwelling family that struggles with poverty. Through the recommendation of a friend, the son ends up taking on a position as an English tutor for the teenage daughter of the wealthy Park family, lying about his qualifications. Soon enough, the rest of the Kim family, through manipulation and social engineering, end up ingratiating themselves with the Parks

The film stars Song Kang-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host), Choi Woo-shik (Okja, Train to Busan), Park So-dam (The Silenced), and Chang Hyae-jin as the Kim family; all chronically underemployed and representative of the 99% of South Korea. Lee Sun-kyun (Take Point) and Cho Yeo-jeong (Vampire Cop Ricky) play the parents of the Park family, the targets of the Kims. Lee Jung-eun plays the Parks’ housekeeper who becomes caught in the crossfire in a rather unexpected way.

The Kims are largely sympathetic, regardless of the disconcerting choices they make. (Neon)

What Worked

Parasite is a ghost story in a few regards. Within the story, there is a supposed ghostly encounter relayed by a concerned parent. More to the point, though, is the specter of poverty that looms large. It looms over decisions, relationships, and vengeance that explodes by the film’s end. There are long term hauntings as well as haunted people, haunted by choices or inaction in startlingly equal measures.

There is a voyeuristic indulgence in seeing incredibly poor choices and the end results of those poor choices. I attribute it as being akin to cringe comedy. You are seeing something terrible yet remain compelled to watch. Parasite is a masterclass in tension, winding up the rubber-band of manipulation and scheming until it snaps. It snaps into such a satisfying series of emotional and violent circumstances. The film is also quite hilarious at times, with a particularly hilarious and awkward sequence involving several characters in hiding in the worst possible place and the worst time.

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The performances are fantastic across the board, but special attention should be paid to Song Kang-ho as Ki-taek, the patriarch of the Kims. Song’s performance of Ki-taek is incredibly satisfying and he sells a fraying mind and betrayal with a simple look. Cho Yeo-jeong and Lee Sun-kyun are also equally up to Song’s level as the Parks, who create strong performances as a gullible and obsessive housewife and a charismatic but ultimately shallow businessman, respectively.

Song Kang-ho largely carries the film during the final act, but that is not to say the rest of the actors do not pull their own weight. (Neon)

What Didn’t Work

In truth, the film is excellent and there is very little to find fault in. The film in many measures is a ghost story. When the twist happens (you’ll know it when you see it) everything clicks and things begin to spiral beautifully. I use beautiful, despite the rather upsetting and violent series of events that follow. There is beauty in the unraveling.

With that being said, I would have appreciated a bit more of the uncanny early on. The experience of Da-song’s “ghost” that has his mother so clearly rattled becomes an important plot point by the last third of the film; however, it is only hinted at about once before the explicit reveal. While I do not think that this was a mistake on the part of Bong Joon-ho, I feel like perhaps the ghost story elements might have been tapped into further.

Honestly, though, this is more or less just reaching for something to be critical over in a largely masterful movie. I suppose one could find annoyance at the number of unanswered questions left in the movie, but those will eventually be answered in the eventual television series.

Final Impressions

Parasite is a film that is in equal measure bleak and hilarious. The film is a deft culmination of poor decisions that finally explode into violent catharsis. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Please continue to check out our reviews here on Haunted MTL.

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David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

Movies n TV

House of he Dragon: S2E4 – The Return of Trogdor!

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Instead of recapping this episode, I will link you to Strongbad, so you can see something with a dragon that doesn’t suck.

See you for Episode 5!

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The Boys, Beware the Jabberwock, My Son

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We’ve reached episode five of The Boys. And after the last episode’s emotional bombshells, this one had some much-needed levity.

And then a whole bunch more emotional trauma.

The story

We begin this episode with Homelander and Ryan in a meeting regarding a new teenage show. But Ryan doesn’t want to be on a show. He wants to be an actual hero. He wants to do real good and help people. And Homelander, fresh from his therapeutic killing spree, is in a mood to support his son.

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Antony Starr and Cameron Crovetti in The Boys.

For now.

Meanwhile, The Boys are searching for a virus that can kill sups. The last time we saw this virus, it was in the hands of Neuman. They borrow Stan Edgar from jail and go to the lovely family farm upstate.

There, they discover that Neuman’s been testing temp V on farm animals. And it works as well on them as it does on hamsters. Soon the boys find themselves batting killer sheep, chickens and bulls. Hilarity and blood ensues.

What worked

The first thing we have to talk about is the superpowered animals. This was such a fantastic, hilarious situation. I especially loved the flying homicidal sheep. They were hilarious, unexpected, and incredibly gory. One just doesn’t expect to see a sheep covered in blood and guts. But it was delightful.

Karl Urban in The Boys.

The main pull of this episode, though, is the evolving relationship between Homelander and Ryan.

Homelander realizes that he doesn’t want Ryan to be brought up the same way he was. He wants his son to be happy.

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He isn’t trying to be a better person though, and I think that’s important to remember. He loves his son, and he wants his son to be happy. And if being an actual hero and actually helping people will make Ryan happy right now, then that’s what Homelander is going to do.

Except that, since he doesn’t care about people, he is really bad at being a good person. Which is what led to a director getting beaten to death by his assistant.

I’m not saying this beatdown wasn’t cathartic. I’m just saying that it was maybe not something a good person would endorse.

I honestly think this new desire to be an actual hero is going to make Homelander more dangerous. If such a thing is possible.

What didn’t work

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Of course, this episode wasn’t perfect. It brought to light a weakness that’s been irritating me this whole season. And that is the storyline with Hugh Senior.

What are we doing here?

While Hughie’s dad’s health issues are sad, and the sudden reintroduction of his mother is interesting, it has nothing to do with the rest of the season. Every other storyline blends and ties together. You can’t pull one string without all of them coming unraveled.

But not this story. So far, this storyline could be removed entirely and the whole rest of the season would remain pristine. All this storyline seems to have done is to have popped our main character out of the main storyline altogether.

Hughie’s absence is a deficit. I would have loved to see him freak out over the killer chickens. But I also would have liked to see him work with Neuman. I would have liked him to be there to defend Butcher. I would have liked to see him interacting with any other characters at all.

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At this point, no character is purely good or purely bad. And I think that’s important. I’m invested in the story of every single character. And with three episodes left in the season, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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The Boys, Wisdom of the Ages

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Episode four of The Boys was possibly the darkest episode of the series so far. And I am aware that this alone is an intimidating prospect.

It should be.

The story

Our story in this episode mainly consists of the single most dickish action I have ever seen anyone perform. Sage and Firecracker set up a four-hour show outside Starlight House, to talk about how horrible of a person Annie is.

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Four hours.

Valorie Curry and Susan Heyward in The Boys.

Annie gets everyone out of the building safely but then decides to watch the entire Anti-Annie show. And it is horrific.

The real horror show of this episode, though, is Homelander’s little adventure. After a fight with Ryan, he’s decided to visit his childhood home. Or, at least the place in which he grew up. Because he was raised more like a science experiment than a child.

I don’t think we’ve seen so far exactly what Homelander went through. The horrors he faced as a small child. Things no one should ever have to experience.

Things that the rest of his world will now have to pay for.

What worked

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If you’re paying attention to politics, this episode got way too real. The absolute hypocrisy of our current political situation was on display with superpowers. I especially liked (and by that I mean was enraged by) Firecracker saying that accidentally blinding someone at age thirteen was worse than being an adult and assaulting a minor. Those two things are not the same, and one of them is obviously worse.

Another thing that I appreciated in this episode was the new, and horrific, information we got about Homelander’s childhood.

Do I maybe feel bad for Homelander now? After seeing the dismal and dark little world he was raised in, yeah, I do. That is a monstrous way to treat a child. It’s no wonder he ended up how he is. Even the milk fetish makes more sense. And I am not any more cajoled by the fact that these people were just doing their jobs than Homelander was. That has never been an honest or adequate justification.

This, of course, doesn’t justify the horrors he’s inflicted. It just makes it easier to see how he got to where he is.

Antony Starr in The Boys.

The best fiction inspires strong emotions. It makes us feel things for people who are not real and feel passionate about events that did not happen. It does this by showing us glimmers of real people and real events within these bags of bones and false narratives. And it is because of this that The Boys is succeeding. It’s taking very real moments we are all living through, and embedding them into a fictional narrative. And that’s always going to be more impactful than just burning someone alive.

What didn’t work

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I only had one complaint about this episode. But it did bother me.

When Firecracker’s show starts, Annie makes a point of getting all the kids out of Starlight House to safety. That’s good. But then she sits down with her friends to watch the show.

Why would you watch a four-hour-long live show about why you are a terrible person?

I get asking someone else to watch it and take notes, because in a position like that you need to know what the opposition is saying about you. But for Annie to just watch that unfiltered was asking for trouble. And it’s exactly the sort of trouble that Annie ended up in.

In conclusion, this episode was almost too real. It had my blood boiling. It had me yelling at the TV. And that’s exactly what I want a good story to do.

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We’re halfway through the season now, and I think we’d all better buckle up for what’s coming.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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