Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Good evening Sporefans. Today we have another exiting review for you all. Today we'll be focusing on the "de-evolution" of movies by comparing two movies. One of these movies is a classic and a defining example of the horror film genre. The other movie is a piece of crap.

Today we will compare the 1979 classic "Alien" directed by Ridley Scott and "Parasite" a 2004 flop directed by Andrew Prendergast. These two movies are so similar and yet so different. I mean, one of them's actually good.

Lets start by introducing how the movies are similar. Alien is a movie about a group of people who are trapped in a large industrial ship with no one to help them. The intrepid crew works diligently for a faceless company and are isolated on a mining ship in space. The crew discover an alien life form, and I don't mean ALF, which attacks and kills the crew until there is only one survivor who escapes from the alien's clutches.

The movie Parasite has almost the exact same plot. Parasite is a movie about a group of people who are trapped on a large oil rig in the middle of a hurricane with no one to help them. The insipid crew works (occasionally, when they're not communally showering) for a corrupt company who has sent them to test a new experimental enzyme that eats oil residue. The crew accidentally overdose a lamprey, or eel, or something which attacks and kills the crew until the leading couple are the only two survivors who eventually escape from the oil rig.

This is what's left of the crew and the eco-terrorists after half the movie. The lug holding the flashlight and the girl with the target painted on her shirt are the least annoying actors left in this group. Guess which ones get killed off first.

So at a glance, the overall plot of these two movies is pretty much the same. But now we get to view some incredible differences. The most glaring of which is talent. The cast of Aliens are all professional actors and actresses who spent most of the movie improvising the dialogue. This shows a great deal of trust in the ability of the cast of Alien. The cast of Parasite can hardly be counted upon to deliver their lines. In fact, it appears that acting ability was directly inverse in proportion to the size of the role in the movie. While many of the supporting characters work well, the 3 main leads look like their auditioning for a high school play.

Actually in all good conscience I can't make that statement, as its too insulting to junior thespians everywhere to have to be in a comparison to these schmucks.

Saskia Gould is the worst of the 3, as her portrayal of Dr. Christine Hansen is grating when at its best, and sickening the other 98% of the time. Conrad Whitaker plays Mickey, the pretentious looking eco-terrorist who's acting is as pretentious as his character. G.W. Stevens starts the movie as the fake protagonist and presents a fairly decent portrayal until his character "breaks" under the pressure. After that it becomes apparent that while Stevens does have some small amount of talent, its not enough to counteract the horrible script, which was pasted together by no less than five separate writers. Compare that with the two writers for Alien, one of which worked on both the original story and then completed the screenplay solo.

"Dude, I'm like all about saving the planet and stuff, and that's deep. Chicks dig that, you know. But you wouldn't understand that because you're not cool like I am.
Hey, aren't you a giant mutated lamprey?"

Pretty much right after they inroduced "Mickey", The Damned and I started rooting for the monsters.

Speaking of scripts, the script for Parasite contains huge plot holes, the most glaring of which revolves around the motivation of the eco-terrorists. In the beginning of the movie there is a sequence shot in video of 3 masked men raiding a corporate installation and stealing information. The information stolen is about the enzyme that eats oil and the oil rig where the final stage testing is to occur.

This actually leads us to another minor plot hole: When the information is stolen, evil corporate head honcho man moves up the testing schedule so that months of lab testing are overlooked and the live demonstration at the oil rig is set to commence in the next couple of days. Turns out his sole motivation was to get Dr. Hansen killed, but how was faceless corporate head honcho man to know that the enzyme would mutate lampreys?

Well, the cleaning crew arrives and sets about cleaning all the oil residue off the oil rig... and also mutating some lampreys by them on the cleaning agent. Then, the eco-terrorists show up and take everyone hostage. This is pretty amazing, as the eco-terrorists show up completely unarmed, and are out manned 3 to 4. The eco-terrorists explain that they want to stop the sinking of the oil rig because the oil will harm the fish.

Now, they must have read the info that they stole at the beginning of the movie to find out where this test was taking place, so did they just skip the part where the entire point of the test was to provide an environmentally safe way to sink the oil rig and create a new reef formation? Granted, it also mutates lampreys, but no one knew that until someone screwed up the ratio of enzyme to water and made a super potent batch 1000 times more concentrated than anything made previously in the labs.

Finally lets have a look at the creatures themselves. In 1979, before the revolutionary changes brought about by computer animation and special effects, a crew of special effects artists took the conceptual work of H.R. Geiger and made it come to life using foam, latex, and even shellfish and the internal organs of a few animals. With 25 years in the advance of the special effects industry, you would think that Parasite would be able to keep up with their sophisticated computer animation. Guess again.

I will say that the most prominent shortcoming of the computer animation techniques is that the animated effects never look real when matted onto the film with the live action. There have been great advances in this field, and it is becoming less noticeable as time goes on, but computer animation is a technique that should be used sparingly, and could greatly benefit from filming live action models and overlaying them into the scene later. Its also a great way to film a scene that would be too dangerous for actors to film outright. A good example is the movie "Snakes on a Plane", where the snakes biting the passengers are CGI.

In Parasite, all of the moving monster effects are CGI. There are a few spots where they filmed cocoons which were made out of latex, but anytime the monster is moving at all, its CGI. Now lets consider the following: This movie is called "Parasite". The creatures in the movie are not parasites. They prey on the crew members and eat them whole, which is how Predator's operate.

Well, that and heat vision.

Parasites are supposed to infest their hosts and feed off of them while they live. The writers could have gone with smaller invasive parasites which actually would have made for a scarier and overall better movie. They would have been able to combine the real latex and foam techniques which evolved from many an 80's horror movie with CGI effects for the Parasites moving under the actor's skin (creepy, ain't it? Click it. Click the link. I dare you. I totally dare you to click this link you chicken.). Instead, somebody probably watched that awful 1998 movie "Deep Rising" with Famke Janssen and though giant eel lamprey creatures were cool. Add in the fact that CGI is cheap in 2004 and you get giant killer lampreys.

Now that I think about it, "Deep Rising" is another movie in this genre, has pretty much the same plot as Parasite without the enzyme. The only difference is that Deep Rising had a $45 million dollar budget. Compare that with the $11 million budget to the original Alien.

Check out this wicked bar graph. I totally stole this idea from that esuarez guy from The Foreign Object.

When we factor in the 3rd movie, you can see the downward curve of this genre of movie, and I think its time make our escape from Parasite. Oh, wait. We can't escape from this movie just yet, because there is one more incredible piece of ridiculousness that I have to lay on you all, and it has to do with escape.

So, lets play a game. You are the designer of an oil rig. You need to design an escape system that the crew can use in case of an emergency to evacuate your facility. Now, lets pick one of the 3 following options.

Option A: Life boats. Tried and true, but their deployment might be a little hazardous in storms, and boats made from wood are easily broken against the metal pilings of the rig. Still, not bad and will get you back to land if you have enough fuel.

Option B: Inflatable life rafts. There are inflatable life rafts that are designed to be used in storms, where there is a canopy over the top of the raft. It may not go anywhere, but you'll be safe on the raft until a rescue crew shows up for you.

Option C: A multi-million dollar electrically powered escape pod which requires the oil rig's generators to be functional to launch said pod 50 feet out into the water away from the oil rig. It should also be noted that this escape pod has only 2 seats, is controlled remotely by a computer in the main terminal of the rig and has no manual over-ride.

All of you who chose option C, pat yourselves on the back really, really hard, because you qualify to write the sequel to parasite. Everyone else can go home and do something else less shameful.

Saskia Gould shows off her "lifeboats". I guess this is how she got the lead.


fnord12 said...

You totally missed out on the subtext of the Alf tv show. Alf was a parasitic alien deviant who had that family under his domination. He was laying eggs in the lot of them, especially the little boy.

Spored_to_Death said...

That's funny. I don't remember any aliens bursting out of people's chests in ALF. I guess he was laying blanks. He was supposed to be pretty old in that show.