Parasite Eve (1997)

Parasite Eve (1997)
Director: Masayuki Ochiai - Writers: Hideaki Sena & Ryoichi Kimizuka - Starring: Hiroshi Mikami, Tomoko Nakajima, Kenzo Kawarazaki, & Hisako Manda.
Updated: 02-26-2006

All parasites should look this hot

Although both the film Parasite Eve and the PlayStation video game of the same name are based on an original novel by Hideaki Sena, their similarities to each other (and the source material) are mostly superficial. While the video game was a role-playing experience in which the protagonist used both conventional weapons and strange evolutionary powers to fight an assortment of mutated monsters, the movie takes a more subtle approach. But while Parasite Eve boasts an intriguing premise and does its homework when it comes to the scientific jargon, languid pacing and an over-reliance on melodrama frequently bog it down.

Toshiaki (Hiroshi Mikami) is a scientist who specializes in the study of mitochondria -- a mysterious component of the human cellular structure that provides energy to its host cell, and contains its own genetic pattern independent of the cellular DNA. Toshiaki is convinced that the mitochondria are the remnants of another life form that once struggled with humans for domination at the cellular level in the days of primordial ooze. Although now dormant, he believes that the power of mitochondria can be tapped into and harnessed in order to revitalize dead or damaged cells. Believing that his research will be a boon to the world of medicine, he works tirelessly -- so much so that he even neglects his one-year anniversary, only to be reminded when his gorgeous young wife, Kiyomi (Riona Hazuki) shows up at his work to remind him. Rather than being angry with Toshiaki, Kiyomi is understanding and encourages him to continue with his work. However, on the drive home, she mysteriously faints and crashes her car. After being rushed to the hospital, she suffers brain death and remains on life support in a vegetative state. Upon learning her fate, Toshiaki is understandably devastated.

Meanwhile, a doctor (Goro Inagaki) tries to save a 12-year-old girl named Mariko (Ayaka Omura), after Mariko's body rejects a recent kidney transplant. When Kiyomi's name ends up on the top of the organ donor's list as a likely match for Mariko, he tries to convince Toshiaki to sign the consent form releasing Yukio's organs for transplant. Toshiaki only agrees on one condition -- when the doctor removes Yukio's kidney for Mariko, he must also remove Yukio's liver and give it to Toshiaki. Although he won't tell the doctor why, Toshiaki is convinced that his research can bring Kiyomi back. As it turns out, he's right -- sort of. What his research yields is a sentient puddle of creeping golden-colored protoplasm that can solidify into a perfect (and perfectly naked) replica of his dead wife (except for the puzzling absence of nipples). But although she looks like Kiyomi, she is working from her own agenda -- one that definitely isn't for the better of humanity. Unfortunately, Toshiaki finds this out a little too late when she begins to set people on fire via her evolved mitochondrial powers.

Parasite Eve is a movie with some smart ideas and a fair amount of unnerving atmosphere. Unfortunately, it also gets bogged down frequently with long set-ups for scares that don't quite pay off. It also leaves some of its most intriguing ideas hanging, opting instead to focus on Toshiaki as he pines for his dead wife, and then the creation that resembles her. The final act introduces some big ideas, then abandons them for a rather anticlimactic resolution that will leave the average viewer wondering "wait, what about x, y, and z?" However, the acting is uniformly good, and the visual effects, while not mind-blowing, are quite serviceable (the creature effects for the puddle of protoplasmic goo that becomes a nipple-less version of Yukio reminded me of the water-tentacle effects from The Abyss, albeit not quite as polished).

Although it's a film full of interesting ideas, Parasite Eve isn't particularly scary or exciting. These ideas get it off to a good start, but the lack of follow-through on them, only for the film to end with a clichéd rooftop finale', is somewhat disappointing. Still, there's a subtlety about it that is admirable, even if it is a bit too constrained at times for its own good.

Several years back, Madonna purchased the movie rights for the Parasite Eve video game, presumably as a vehicle for her to star in the title role. The fact that this never panned out is a blessing to movie lovers everywhere, considering how much every other film she's touched has suffered (just ask Guy Ritchie). Since the Parasite Eve franchise dropped off of the video game industry's radar years ago, it is unlikely that an American remake of this film will ever be made, and that's probably for the best. Though imperfect, the Japanese version of Parasite Eve is still far better than anything an American studio would likely crank out to video game adaptation specifications.

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