The Kim family, prior to hitting the jackpot, in “Parasite.” (Neon/CJ Entertainment)

The Kim family, prior to hitting the jackpot, in “Parasite.” (Neon/CJ Entertainment)

Expect the exhilaratingly unexpected in brilliant ‘Parasite’

This Korean film that won top honors at Cannes is another triumph for the director of “Snowpiercer.”

Part screwball comedy, part social satire and part horror flick, “Parasite” combines all the best parts of those movie styles. The result is a delirious experience.

You don’t want to know too much about it in advance. “Parasite” unfolds in such a surprising way that watching it work on an audience — through levels of delight, shock and disbelief — is part of the fun.

This widely praised Korean film (winner of the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival) comes from the mind of Bong Joon Ho, the writer-director best known for his lone Hollywood film, “Snowpiercer.” His other work ranges from the eye-popping monster movie “The Host” to the raucous police procedural “Memories of Murder.”

There’s a lot going on beneath the surface of his films. Sometimes literally. For instance, a number of the characters in “Parasite” live below ground level.

This is how we meet the Kim family, currently down on their luck. They view the world through the grimy windows of their basement apartment — but not for long.

By a chance connection, the family’s 20-ish son (Choi Woo Shik) gets a job tutoring the soon-to-be-lovestruck daughter of a wealthy family. It’s a foot in the door.

Before long, his sister (Park So Dam) is hired as an art teacher — and informal psychologist — for the family’s little boy, his father (the mighty Song Kang Ho) engaged as a chauffeur, and his mother (Chang Hyae Jin) moved in as the new housekeeper.

The newcomers pretend they’re not related. This is a con game born of desperation, and the Kim family is not about to miss a golden chance.

There’s a great scene where the rich folks have gone away on a camping trip, and the Kims lounge around this giant house, guzzling fancy booze and gazing out of pristine wall-sized windows at the beautifully manicured grounds of the place. They’ve arrived.

Up to this exact point, “Parasite” has been a rollicking comedy. Then there’s a buzz at the front door, and the sequence evolves into an unhinged set-piece that changes our ideas about what the film is up to.

No more description. But be assured that “Parasite” lifts off into a zany realm that never becomes predictable.

It’s a sign of a strong director that the actors all seem to be working in the same groove, and that’s the case here. Even the smallest roles are played with something special, and a few — including Cho Yeo Jeong as the wealthy wife — are world-class.

The opportunistic son keeps pondering things and exclaiming “It’s metaphorical!” If you saw Bong’s “Snowpiercer,” you know that everything’s a metaphor in his movies. As a window on how today’s world works (or doesn’t work), “Parasite” is a wild and funny dissection — an ant farm ready for view.

“Parasite” (4 stars)

Winner of the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, this wild film is the latest from the ingenious “Snowpiercer” director Bong Joon Ho. A family of have-nots insinuates itself into a wealthy household, with unexpected and exhilarating results. In Korean, with English subtitles.

Rating: R, for violence

Opening Friday: Egyptian and Lincoln Square theaters

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Camp Fire attendees pose after playing in the water. (Photo courtesy by Camp Fire)
The best childcare in Snohomish County

You voted, we tallied. Here are the results.

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

To most, tiles are utilitarian. To some, they’re a sought-after art form.

Collectors particularly prize tiles made by early 20th century art potteries. This Wheatley piece sold for $216 at auction.

Spring plant sales in Snohomish County

Find perennials, vegetable starts, shrubs and more at these sales, which raise money for horticulture scholarships.

beautiful colors of rhododendron flowers
With its big, bright blooms, Washington’s state flower is wowing once again

Whether dwarf or absolutely ginormous, rhodies put on a grand show each spring. Plus, they love the Pacific Northwest.

Whidbey duo uses fencing to teach self-discipline, sportsmanship to youth

Bob Tearse and Joseph Kleinman are sharing their sword-fighting expertise with young people on south Whidbey Island.

Craig Chambers takes orders while working behind the bar at Obsidian Beer Hall on Friday, April 12, 2024, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Obsidian Beer Hall takes over former Toggle’s space in downtown Everett

Beyond beer, the Black-owned taphouse boasts a chill vibe with plush sofas, art on the walls and hip-hop on the speakers.

Glimpse the ancient past in northeast England

Hadrian’s Wall stretches 73 miles across the isle. It’s still one of England’s most thought-provoking sights.

I accidentally paid twice for my hotel. Can I get a refund?

Why did Valeska Wehr pay twice for her stay at a Marriott property in Boston? And why won’t help her?

How do you want your kids to remember you when they grow up?

Childhood flies by, especially for parents. So how should we approach this limited time while our kids are still kids?

Dalton Dover performs during the 2023 CMA Fest on Friday, June 9, 2023, at the Spotify House in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The Red Hot Chili Pipers come to Edmonds, and country artist Dalton Dover performs Friday as part of the Everett Stampede.

Lily Gladstone poses at the premiere of the Hulu miniseries "Under the Bridge" at the DGA Theatre, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Mountlake Terrace’s Lily Gladstone plays cop in Hulu’s ‘Under the Bridge’

The true-crime drama started streaming Wednesday. It’s Gladstone’s first part since her star turn in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.