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ADV Films presents
DVD ReviewHideaki Sena's novel Parasite Eve caused something of a stir in Japan, when first published. Not only was it a major success, but its popularity resulted in the production of a high-budget television movie and a video game from one of the largest game developers in Japan (Squaresoft). In the U.S., we really didn't know about any of this until the video game hit our shores—generally well-received I might add. As a result, there was heightened interest in the book and movie, and music icon Madonna is rumored to have purchased the rights to the novel to put another film version into production. Well, outside of the VCD and import VHS market, we now have a Region 1 DVD of the film that so many (including myself) have hotly anticipated. Unfortunately, it doesn't really seem to have been worth the wait.
The story primarily concerns a genetic scientist, Toshiaki Nagashima (Hiroshi Mikami), who is working on a project to utilize the natural mitochondria we have in our own cells to aid in regrowth of damaged organs. Meanwhile, another doctor (Tomoko Nakajima) is working to help a young girl who has lost a kidney. Toshiaki's wife, Kiyomi (Riona Hazuki), gets involved in a brutal car accident one day, and goes into a brain-dead coma as a result. Eventually, Toshiaki is convinced to let his wife die and allow her kidney to be transplanted into the young girl, Mariko (Ayako Omura), but only on one condition: that he is allowed to keep her liver.
Disturbingly, Toshiaki obsesses over Kiyomi's liver and begins cultivating her cells, claiming that he's "keeping her alive." Mariko is functioning well with her new kidney, but she's also having bad dreams and strange visions. Eventually, some bizarre things begin to occur when Kiyomi's liver cells begin replicating in weird ways, and Mariko's new kidney begins to mutate her internal structure. Without spoiling the rest, no one really suspecting the rather horrifying developments to come.
The most important thing I can say in my review of this film is: Do NOT watch it if you're expecting a film version of the video game. The game, which took some major liberties with the source novel, had much more to it. Sadly, this film interpretation is little more than a surgical horror film, dressed up with fancy special effects, stylish camera angles, and a ridiculously heavy amount of dialogue. It's about 30 minutes too long, and uses very little of its true potential. I say all this because it will be fans of the video game who will be the first to grab on to this DVD. The name recognition will ensure massive rentals and purchases of this title, but Parasite Eve is nothing like that game.
As a Gothic thriller, Parasite Eve is actually fairly absorbing, until you realize that it takes almost one hour just to get to the central point, and length is the main problem here. The direction doesn't ever seem to assume that, as intelligent people, we'll understand what's going on, so the point is driven home by scenes that are easily twice as long as they should be. Almost all of the portions with any 'horror' behind them are ridiculously exaggerated. For example, during the scene where Kiyomi's organs are removed, there's this laughable 'squishy' foley added in to make it seem disgusting and gory, when it really shouldn't be like that. There is also a lot of build up to a major climax that never happens. Eventually, the world is actually threatened by what happens in the film, but the scope of the result is so small, you wonder why you were led to believe it was such a big deal.
Parasite Eve would have been much more effective if it had either gone somewhere very quickly, or instead, focused on the obsessed scientist and his quest to re-create his wife, which was weird enough to be interesting, but lost steam once the sci-fi elements came in. On the plus side, all the rumors I had heard about the awful special effects were just not true. Technically, this is a very capable production, but it's seemingly dumbed down and over-stylized to appeal to a broader audience. It reminded me of a really long music video, or something equally disjointed and heavily edited; sort of like Michael Bay making a horror movie.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: The 1:85:1, anamorphic image is extremely well-rendered, especially considering the soft, diffusion effects in most scenes. The only problem is that some sequences carry a heavy amount of grain and distortion from some of this diffusion. The transfer, however, is impressive, with no loss of detail or appearance of compression artifacts. The only spots where color and black level are a bit off are scenes that used composite effects, and that was generally excusable.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround track is extremely immersive and well done. There is a lot of directionality and surround usage, bringing you right into the film. There's a lot of opportunities for creative sound mixing, and it does use them quite well. Although the music takes over a lot of the soundstage, all elements are well-balanced, with nothing distorted or pushed out. Certainly one of the more impressive 2.0 Surround tracks I've heard on DVD.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 8 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Although I usually like ADV discs, there is a weird lack of presentation here that's very disturbing. First, the English subtitles are hard ones (burned into the image), which means they must stay in the image frame. Second, the menus show an amazing lack of the spark you usually see on ADV work. The thing that really blew me away, though, was the 8 chapter stops for a 2-hour movie. I stopped the film once when I was watching it, and removed the disc (erasing where I was), and then found myself fast-forwarding through almost 20 minutes of film time to get back to where I was, which was still about 10 minutes from a chapter change. The final insult was the joke of a 'trailer', which I assumed would be a Japanese promotion or something, but instead, it's a promotional trailer for the U.S. release that, quite literally, features voice-over by someone apparently cupping their hands over their mouth to sound 'evil.' The trailer also claims Parasite Eve is from "the masters of Japanese horror", which is an odd comment since the majority of the crew were first-time filmmakers, part of a newly formed television drama department at Fuji TV Network.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsParasite Eve is OK for a medical horror movie, but it's way too long for the simplistic story it tells. It feels like "part one" of something much bigger, but it's not. It's worth a rental though, and the Playstation video game (which uses the core story, but changes the setting and makes it all much deeper and longer) is worth checking out as well, if you haven't already. To be honest, I'd rather see the game's version of the novel made into a movie.
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