Meet the Kims, who cling to life in the basement of a basement in Seoul, South Korea.
It’s street level, and has one window that allows them to see the drunk from the bar next door, urinating on their windowsill. This apartment — more like a prison — is, of course, a metaphor for their place in the world, i.e. the bottom of everything. As writer Richard Farina once put it, the Kims have been down so long it now begins to look like up.

These are the Kims: Father (Song Kang Ho), mother (Jang Hye Jin), son (Choi Woo Shik) and daughter (Park So Dam).
The Kims are serial grifters, scammers, social media thieves and sweet but soulless parasites, straight off of Damon Ruyon’s Broadway.
Sounds like an upscale sitcom, doesn’t it? Hold on. Patience is required here. We’re in Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho’s world now (“Snowpiercer”), so brace yourself for something entirely different.

As the story opens, the landlady upstairs has changed her wifi password, so the Kims have been spending the morning holding their phones against the ceiling and wall, trying to find someone else to steal from.
Things begin to look better when son, who has failed the university exam four times, lands a job through a friend, to tutor the teenage daughter of a very rich Korean family in what appears to be the Beverly Hills of Seoul. The Kims smell opportunity.
Through comic acts of deception and chicanery all played out in mini-hilarious one-acts, the entire Kim family insinuates itself into the fabulously wealthy house of the upscale family, slowly replacing the entire staff.
Father becomes the new chauffeur, mother the new housekeeper, daughter an art teacher for the little boy and son the English tutor for the sweet teen daughter.
It does sound like a great comic opera sitcom, does it not?
If you’re not familiar, as I was not, with Korean director and writer Bong Joon Ho, you’re in for a colossal surprise.
“Parasite” is the greatest bargain you’ll ever get. For the price of one ticket, Ho gives us three movies.
The first is reminiscent of films like Frank Capra’s “You Can’t Take it With You,” with his house full of bizarre characters, then it slowly becomes a weird combination of the kind of black comedy Hitchcock (whom Ho credits for his inspiration) drew in films like “The Trouble With Harry” and his 1976 “Family Plot.”
What happens in the last 30 minutes will either drop you to the floor or have you running for the exits. My advice? Stay seated, grip your chair and try to breathe. You’re in for the ride of your life. I think I’ve seen all the great shockers, but I was totally thrown off my meds with this one.
Ho rips back a curtain and exposes yet another unexpected blood-drenched scene.
There’s a hidden world down in the basement that coughs up a heartbreaking stranger, followed by a biblical deluge that would test the courage of Noah, a sun-filled birthday party that rivals the prom scene in Stephen King’s “Carrie” and, while our hands are still shaking, Ho calms us down with yet another final act.

Ho, known in much of the world’s film circles, is surely one of the great storytellers to come out of Asia. His cast is an assemblage of gifted actors, and the cinematography of Hong Kyung-pyo? Breathtaking. “Parasites.” See you at the Dolby.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor.

filed under: