This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
rileykane123’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Yo, I’m back again. Not that I think you guys missed me or anything, aha.
Parasite is the very thing that cinema should be, a wonderful culmination of many things that simultaneously doesn’t allow its gaps to be filled by rocky tonal transitioning from comedic drama to flat-out thriller. Yet, the one issue I have with the film is, in my opinion, important enough for me to feel qualified to write an assessment not only about its subjective misplacement in this specific movie but also in other films as well. What I’m in reference to is graphic, detailed violence.
The violence as a part of the narrative isn’t the issue at all, it’s how it’s shown within context or, in this case, lack there of. I understand that showing the brutal imagery forms a broad collection of ways in which you can visually represent on-screen violence, but for me this specific story needed its blanks to be consumed not by what we see, but by what we don’t see. I don’t feel as if showing violence to its extent, in explicit, unflinching detail, was necessary to Parasite because much of the film implicated its themes and concepts rather than just blatantly shoving them into the final cut, allowing essence to be created rather than a spoon-fed experience. By halfway through the movie, we’re already able to sense and understand that the story unraveled into a different kind of film from how it patiently started out, we don’t need to see the grisly violence depicted in such detail in order to receive a sense that things have drastically changed. At the halfway point in the movie, things were so good that the subtitles started to read themselves, all elements of the story were clear enough for anything even slightly less subtle to be destroyed completely. In other words, all of the film was pretty much 100% perfect until the last 20 minutes, when it decided to go for serious shock value.
Once again, the violence as a link to the story is contextual and makes sense, but its visual execution was unneeded for the precise reasons I stated prior, everything was perfectly translated and clear, without an ounce of wavering, so utilising on-screen details in such gritty ways seemed less like providence for the narrative and more like a (well-done, although unnecessary, to the film’s credit) attempt at startling viewers. The overall explicitness of the violence negated how reserved and intense the movie felt beforehand, it relied on suggestion to provoke thoughts and emotions. Put it this way, being described a gory, grotesque murder will allow you to fill the blanks of how horrible it must’ve been. Seeing the imagery is still disturbing but nothing is more horrifying than imagination because the conjurings of our minds can go to places and extents that we don’t even want to know about. Even though this is a completely different film from Parasite, Sinister is a great and underrated example of how the mind can be evoked without any literal translation of it on-screen. Sinister is full of scenes involving snuff films that are found and, while its almost-empty sequel managed to do the exact opposite by including the most blatantly graphic scenes possible, what it pulled off was an underlying sense of unease due to the very thing I mentioned before, imagination. Instead of going to lengths in favour of shock-factor, Sinister was insanely unnerving and successfully creeped under my skin since it made me visualise the imagery of families being murdered in demented ways, barely showing the imagery to a degree where you can make it out and therefore leading into the scenes’ ambiguities being solved by the scariest creation of all, the creation of our minds.
Parasite is all about essence, which is exactly why I don’t think its upfront violence was applicable or beneficial in any way. Films that include extreme violence but BENEFIT from it include The House That Jack Built and Green Room, just to name a few. I’ll explain why I think this is the case. With The House That Jack Built, the story, about distinctions between art and reality, focuses on a murderer who won’t stop killing people. I believe that a point the movie was attempting to make was that you need to have sympathy to create art. In Jack’s case, he is a heartless monster who kills people to make them additions to his own strange definition of art, which therefore requires such absurd and violent imagery to be shown since it unflinchingly gives a vivid look into this man’s purely black soul. An implication simply isn’t enough for this man’s evilness to be explored to its highest degree, the imagery had to be there so the mind of the main character was much clearer. And, in Green Room’s case, the film sees how reckless actions have consequences and how mistakes lead into grim corners that aren’t always possible to back out of. Neither THTJB or Green Room were driven by essence, they were primarily about the extent of their themes rather than the reservedness and patience of them, they are both nightmares which torture their audiences by making them breathe the humid air overheating their sick, infected skin. Parasite, however, is not that. Parasite puts into focus an underlying slowness that allows its story to grow rather than be delayed by blatant detail, which is why it has such a fast and enthralling runtime, but the violence at the end seems to work as a providence only for shock value, not for the speed of the story. In my opinion, it was misplacement but not bad enough to ruin the film as a whole, since it is one of my favorites of the year but could’ve been better without its emphasis on excruciatingly detailed violence during the final 20 minutes.