Sensei Daily is about to start class, so pay attention and don’t wander off – this is actually interesting. Inside most of the cells in your body are microscopic organelles called mitochondria. These little guys supply our cells with all the energy we need to live and grow, and without them evolution would not have been possible. Here’s the creepy part: these mitochondria all have their own DNA (separate from our own), and no one knows exactly why they exist in us at all. Theoretically, they could survive without us.
In fact, many scientists believe these organelles, as they are only passed on maternally, can be traced back to one woman, who may have lived several hundred-thousand years ago in Africa. She is referred to as “Mitochondria Eve” and there’s a helluva horror story to be told with her. Too bad this film isn’t it.
“Parasite Eve” is based on the novel by Hideaki Sena (the videogame with which most of us are familiar is also based on the book, but takes place after the events portrayed in the film). The story deals with a science professor who studies mitochondria, with the hypothesis that replacing damaged cells with healthy mitochondria will reverse the effects of diseases such as Diabetes. When his wife is involved in an accident that leaves her brain damaged, he must choose between allowing her to remain forever on a respirator, and allowing the removal of her vital organs to help others.
You just know the mitochondria are going to fit in here somewhere, and they do. I don’t want to spoil the story, although it’s safe to say that you’ll be about a half hour ahead of it at all times. The first half, while slow, is pretty good. However, in a movie that is based on fairly solid science, a sudden shift to mysticism surprised me and made the second half feel bizarre and unbelievable, even by Japanese standards.
There are also moments of inconsistency that are just too large to ignore. In one scene, a man’s arm bursts into flames, killing him. If that’s not preposterous enough, another man shortly after has his arm burst into flames and he just stands there. For several minutes. Seriously. I couldn’t focus on the story; all I could do was just keep talking to the screen: “Dude, your arm’s on fire.” Then, a minute later: “No, really, dude…your arm is on fire!”
The film is guilty of allowing its own logic to work only when the plot is served, something that’s a personal pet peeve. Why does electrical equipment only become affected by the goings-on at certain points and not all the time, for example? There’s also an odd, nippleless woman walking around for much of the movie. How the hell can anyone concentrate on a story when someone with no nipples keeps popping up?
I guess that’s as good an analogy for “Parasite Eve” as any other: she’s beautiful to look at, but she just doesn’t have the nipples to go the distance.
Pros: A horror flick that’s based on some cool and accurate science. The first half is pretty good…
Cons: …but it goes downhill shortly after. Additionally, it isn’t scary. At all. The videogame is creepier and gorier (the film has zero blood).
Review Rating: 2.5 out of 5 minutes went by before the dude’s other arm catches on fire. And he still doesn’t flinch.
“Parasite Eve” (1997)
Also known as: “Parasaito Ivu”
120 Minutes; Japan
Not Rated, but probably equivalent to an R for excessive nippleless breasts.
Hiroshi Mikami (Toshiaki Nagashima)
Riona Hazuki (Kiyomi Nagashima)
Tomoko Nakajima (Sawako Asakura)
Ayako Omura (Mariko Anzai)
Goro Inagaki (Tatsuro Ohno)
Hisako Manda (Etsuko Odagiri)
Directed by: Masayuki Ochiai
Written by: Ryoichi Kimizuka, based on the novel by Hideaki Sena
Viewing Format: DVD. And Fanboys, the guy on fire is not poignant, it’s silly…so don’t even bother emailing me about how stupid I am. I already know anyway.
(Originally published on HorrorWatch)