'Parasyte: The Grey' review: It wants to eat your brain, not melt it


'Before going into battle with parasites, I inspire myself by watching 80s' action flicks. Now I have a shotgun, ho ho ho.' Photos: Handout

Why do tropical fruits have such malevolent outer-space counterparts? First, those space "mangosteens" of Alien: Covenant which disgorged lethal spores that wafted up dumb explorers' noses and grew into beastly parasites inside their bodies.

Now, we have unripe space rambutans that fall to Earth and disgorge beastly parasites that want to eat our brains and control our bodies.

That's how humanity's doom is spelled out in Parasyte: The Grey, a madcap body-horror/action show co-written and directed by Train To Busan auteur Yeon San-ho, and based on Hitoshi Iwaaki's manga series Parasyte.

If any of this sounds familiar, that's because we also had the hugely entertaining 2014 anime series Parasyte -the maxim- (also on Netflix) and two live-action movie adaptations around the same time. Ah, the 20teens... vintage years for cerebrophages.

So basically, once a parasite crawls into your ear (or other facial orifice) and eats your brain, the person you were is gone for good.

What's left is something that resembles the original, but is driven to keep itself alive by consuming human flesh and blood and whose heads can morph into bizarre, lethal forms.

'I'm not sure why you keep telling me to unhand you, human. These aren't my hands.''I'm not sure why you keep telling me to unhand you, human. These aren't my hands.'

But... what happens if the takeover is incomplete? As those familiar with the source material will know, the result is a curious hybrid being that is neither human nor alien and feared by both sides.

That's the fate of Jeong Su-in (Jeon So-nee, Jo Pil-ho: The Dawning Rage), a supermarket checkout clerk who is suddenly forced to share headspace with a parasite that calls itself Heidi.

She soon finds herself in the company of peeps played by three of Yeon's Peninsula alums: kindly cop Kim Chul-min (Kwon Hae-hyo), who has been looking out for Su-in since her traumatic childhood; petty criminal Seol Kang-woo (Koo Kyo-hwan), whose siblings may be mixed up in sinister business; and highly motivated Choi Jun-kyung (Lee Jung-hyun), the leader of an anti-parasite task force known as Team Grey.

Did I mention that Jun-kyung is so motivated that she practically froths at the mouth whenever she has the chance to kill a parasite, and won't even stop to consider Su-in's protestations before levelling a shotgun at her? And that's when she's feeling mellow.

No one on the team was happy when it was Jun-kyung's turn to prepare the meat for jeongol night.No one on the team was happy when it was Jun-kyung's turn to prepare the meat for jeongol night.

While the body-horror aspects of P:TG may prove off-putting to some, I must say that the scenes of parasite-possessed beings twirling various cranial appendages and flesh-blades at one another is almost... mesmerising.

And given its relatively low episode count of a mere six, P:TG skims over the more suspenseful, paranoia-laced moments that such a setting could generate.

As such, the story and characters do not engage us as fully as they should (unlike in the anime), with the closest thing to a genuine human bond here being Detective Kim and Su-in's long-standing ties.

Still, there are some things for which we can be thankful. For one, the show doesn't drag things out and resolves situations such as hidden threats and devious plots in quick, sometimes startling ways.

For another, Yeon and company don't skimp on the action, with frequent parasite face-offs and big set-pieces (including one slam-bang sequence set on a congested roadway) making this one always watchable, even if it seems like they're making up the "rules" of parasitic takeover on the fly.

And yeah, we can also be thankful that those pesky parasites didn't opt to fall on our heads in space durians.


All six episodes of Parasyte: The Grey are available to stream on Netflix.

7 10

Summary:

It's quite outta sight

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