Bong Joon-ho's black comedy Parasite is a masterfully-told allegory with deeper insights lurking beneath the surface inviting further study and conversation. The thriller finds a home on Blu-ray furnished with a gorgeous, reference-quality audio and video presentation but a disappointing set of bonuses. Still, the overall package is Highly Recommended.
We have also reviewed the Blu-ray HERE.
Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is a bleakly deadpan but sophisticatedly subtle commentary that's as much a piece of art as it is a wildly entertaining black comedy rising to the level of a masterpiece. Like the imagery implied in the title, the film squirms in the mind with lingering ideas and abstract impressions that welcome various interpretations.
The South Korean filmmaker displays a great deal of restraint, as he stoically and dispassionately introduces audiences to the Kim family (Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam and Chang Hyae-jin). Living in literal squalor in the basement of an apartment complex, they scuttle about their home leeching off a neighbor's Wi-Fi, not unlike the stink bugs scurrying on their kitchen table. For good comedic measure, Bong amplifies his metaphor with a fumigator spraying pesticide chemicals into the Kim's home. But he quickly subverts this when son Ki-woo mystifyingly declares a scholar's rock metaphorical, a comical meta jab at the film and its themes and becomes an absurdly oddball running gag.
By sharp contrast, the Park family (Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Jeong Ji-so and Jung Hyeon-jun) are the complete opposite, living in a spacious house comfortably situated in a clean, uncrowded neighborhood away from the ills and hardships of the lower class. And yet, there is something shrewdly writhing beneath the surface of this picture-perfect nuclear family, particularly in their fetishized fixation on American culture. Watching the story ominously unfold, we admire Bong's meticulous camerawork moving vertically with suggestive weightiness, seeing the Kims always descending stairs but only ascending in the company of the Parks. The second half of this masterpiece is a bizarre reveal touching on other ideas we're left to unpack, questioning who's the real parasite in this contemporary class warfare.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings Parasite to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a Digital Copy code. When redeeming said code via Universal's website or Movies Anywhere, users have access to the 4K HDR10 version with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. The triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-elite case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a menu screen with the usual options along the left side, music and full-motion clips.
The dark comedy thriller wiggles and twists its way into the dark recesses of Ultra HD with a stunningly beautiful, reference-quality HEVC H.265 encode, boasting a dramatic improvement in overall contrast and brightness balance. Not only are the whites significantly brighter and more intense, which can be seen in the daylight exteriors, but specular highlights are also radiant and beaming with a tight, narrow glow from the sparkling glare off metallic surfaces to the various light fixtures, allowing for superb clarity throughout. Meanwhile, blacks are richer and more luxurious with excellent gradational differences in the various shades and the heavy gray overtones. Admittedly, there are couple minor instances where those levels falter ever so slightly. But overall, the 2.39:1 image is bathed in silkier, velvety shadows that penetrate deep into the screen with strong visibility and gorgeous cinematic appeal.
Hong Kyung-pyo's heavily stylized cinematography also benefits tremendously when moving into the UHD neighborhood. The HDR10 presentation boasts a sumptuous array of vibrant, spirited primaries although the palette largely favors a more steely blue and stony cold teal aesthetic. Reds are more full-bodied and animated, really making the dark crimson blood pop, while greens are livelier and very dynamic, making the Park home seem all the more affluent and prosperous. Speaking of which, their home is continuously bathed in warmer, golden yellows, cozy marigold oranges, welcoming cider ambers and various sepia tans, which really adds to their home being all the more desirable and worthy of coveting. Facial complexions are also improved with better, more realistic coloring in the skin tones, looking rosier in the cheekbones and peachier overall while revealing the tiniest wrinkle and negligible blemish.
The film was originally shot on the Arri Alexa camera system at 6.5K resolution, and those elements were later mastered to a 4K digital intermediate. As with everything else in this UHD edition, the native 4K transfer also showcases notably sharper definition in every scene, exposing every nook and cranny in both houses. The smallest object in the background is distinctly visible, the fine lines in Park's expensively-designed minimalist furniture are highly detailed, and every strand of hair and threading in the clothes are very well-defined. At the same time, there's more to appreciate in the grimy imperfections and filthy flaws of Kim's cramped, subterranean existence. The lettering on various objects seems a bit more legible and noticeable, and every blade of grass and leaf in the yard is discrete. (HDR10 Video Rating: 98/100)
It is worth noting that this UHD edition of Parasite also comes in the HDR10+ video format. However, as of this writing, we are not yet equipped to evaluate the quality of the said format.
The horrors of class struggle reach their boiling point armed with an excellent, highly-engaging Dolby Atmos soundtrack, providing a welcomed step-up over its DTS-HD MA counterpart. It's not a night and day difference, but the upgrade is notable nonetheless.
Much of the attention remains in the fronts, but the design enjoys the extra-breathing room, displaying slightly improved balance with background activity more fluidly moving across all three channels and convincingly into the off-screen space. Some of those atmospherics occasionally and rather faintly bounce into the top heights, impressively widening and broadening the soundstage. A variety of other ambient effects also spread into the surrounds and the other overheads, such as the noise of the city, some of the local wildlife, the crack of thunder and the downpour of the rain, nicely expanding the soundfield.
With distinct and precise vocals from beginning to end, imaging continuously feels busy and energetic while exhibiting better warmth and distinction within the mid-range, welcoming the listener into this creepy vision of the haves and have nots with amazing effectiveness. The low-end remains comparatively the same as its lossless predecessor, more on the reserved side, which should come as a surprise given the genre and subject matter. Nevertheless, when appropriately used according to the on-screen action, the bass provides a palpable weight and presence, such as during the thunderstorm sequence. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 90/100)
The same set of supplements from the Blu-ray has been ported over to the UHD disc.
A modern masterpiece from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, Parasite is a wildly entertaining allegory on contemporary class struggles and income inequality. But lurking beneath the surface of this engrossingly brilliant black comedy writhes deeper layers of insightful commentary on modernity, subtly on display in the methodical, restrained hands of a talented filmmaker. The thriller finds a home on Ultra HD, furnished with a stunning, reference-quality HDR10 video presentation and an awesome Dolby Atmos soundtrack, offering fans a notable step-up over its Blu-ray counterpart. Although sadly packing a disappointingly small set of supplements, the overall package nonetheless makes for a highly recommended addition to the UHD library.