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