B-Movie Inspirations: Parasite (1982)
There are certain movies I watch for this series that are not half bad, while others are truly terrible. Parasite is more the latter than the former only because it was so poorly executed and acted. It has a decent premise but lacked imagination and production in the execution of that premise.
Parasite is a 1982 American science fiction horror set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future in which the United States has been taken over by what I assume are mega corporations but material I found online called them criminal organization. I am not sure there’s much of a difference though. One particular organization unwittingly creates an uncontrollable deadly parasite (… sound familiar? … gain of function, anyone?) for some unknown nefarious purpose. To prevent it from being released onto the population, one of the creating scientists infects himself with it and escapes with the only living sample. The film features actress Demi Moore in her first major film role. The trailer also indicates that the movie was 3D in the theaters.
The movie makes a very poor attempt at world building. The general concept of the setting is a cliché but fits perfectly into dark future RPG settings like Cyberpunk or Dark Conspiracy. As I said, it is set in a near-future United States where a vaguely referenced atomic disaster has reduced the world to poverty and remote areas to lawless Old-West like towns. Instead of a government, the US is run by an organization called the Merchants, which sounds to me like a collective of mega corporations. It is implied (poorly) that they exploit the degenerate remains of society with slave labor and other evil practices.
The online resources I read say that in order to keep control of the populace, the Merchants force Dr. Paul Dean (lead scientist and hero of the movie) to create a new life form – a parasite that feeds on its host. I may have missed that part of the story somewhere along the way but once I read it, it did add a little to it. However, that would imply that overpopulation is a problem but the locales they went to in the movie did not indicate that. I realize that would require a major budget but some kind of exposition explaining that maybe the cities are suffering from overpopulation and need a solution. Fortunately, the only budget you have in an RPG is your imagination.
Realizing the deadly potential of such a creature, Dr. Dean escapes the lab with the parasite, infecting himself in the process, with the intent of finding a cure. The movie sort of glazes over all that and picks up where we see the good doctor travelling in a remote desert location, implying that he has been traveling from town to town. He has an encounter in an abandoned building, establishing the chaotic world of the wastelands and the savagery of the people there. There are several shots in this action sequence that, if you did not know it was a 3D movie already, you would not by the end of this scene. One point of interest is that the weapon carried by the good doctor was a laser weapon, unfortunately he loses it in the fight.
Meanwhile, Dr. Dean is being pursued by a Merchant hunter named Wolf. This is the biggest disappointment to the movie. He had a cool car and a little laser stick but that’s about it. I would want more out of a government enforcer. In fact, if it is that important, I would have sent a team. Maybe several terminator type robots or genetic engineered soldiers – not some guy in a nice suit and nice car. But I understand – low budget. I am sure they blew quite a bit of their budget on renting that Lotus.
While resting in a desert town, the doctor is hassled and eventually robbed by a gang of thugs and hooligans, led by a mullet-bearing Ricus, who happens to be a former slave laborer of the Merchants. We also meet a old boarding house owner that allows our hero to stay at her dusty hotel. Then there is the saloon owner – Collins – who becomes one of Dr. Deans few friends as well as little miss lemonade girl Patricia Welles (Demi Moore at 20 years old) who obviously becomes not only the love interest but the damsel in distress when needed.
The gang steal the silver canister containing the living parasite, not realizing what it is. It escapes and infects one of the members. This is also where it goes in a direction that is disappointing – all the parasite does is kill. Why not multiply? Why not turn them into some kind of hosted zombie? Something else? I know, budgeting.
At this point, the gang begs for the doctor’s help to save the life of their infecting friends. However, they encounter Wolf. The parasite continues to infect, killing it’s victims and growing into a large worm-like created with pointy teeth. The underwhelming climax ends with the gang leader dead and the worm attached to Wolf. Both are killed in a fiery explosion. This could have been so much better, especially in light things like The Last of Us doing so well now. Expand out the lore of the parasite. Expand the world a little more. Expand the town to be more tangible and the dynamics of the town.
From a RPG Game Master Perspective… like I said some expansion needs to be done to really make this an intriguing plot for an tabletop RPG.
It is implied that the parasite was invented for a reason – population control. I would assume that they need to depopulate the urban areas because the remote areas seem rather depopulated. This is perfect for dark future games that have mega-cities like the old RPG game I used to play called Dark Conspiracy. This setting had a series of cataclysmic events happen around the world, causing more and more people to flock to the cities – so much so, mega-cities formed. The east coast was on solid city from Boston to Washington DC called New Boswash.
In that kind of setting, overpopulate in the cities would be a problem. So an evil corporation develops a parasite to kill off a certain portion of the population. Why a parasite? They are usually transmitted by a feral creatures to humans – like rats. But this parasite grows into it’s own transmitter. But maybe this was a mistake. Maybe it doesn’t kill its victims but turns them into something. This could be anything but the most obvious is some kind of zombie – one bite transmits the parasite and so on.
The world sounds very similar to the dark future of any cyberpunk world or Dark Conspiracy. Corporations committing any kind of crime it wants to make a profit. The regular people struggle day to day to survive. Chaos rules the remote regions while everyone else lives under the tight grip of tyranny in the urban areas.
There was a flashback in the very beginning that was a great opportunity to show the urban over-population problem, but again, budgeting. It would have explained at the very least why corporations are experimenting with diseases, viruses and parasites to control the population (… sounds rather apt for today’s situation… just saying …).
For a role playing game, establishing shots of the situation would be good if this is not already established by the setting. A good background of a dark future needs to play a big part of the plot behind an adventure inspired by this movie.
The town needed a little more fleshing out. With that, you can created an Alamo type scenario with the towns people defending against the corporate types while also dealing with the infestation of the parasites – kind of an Aliens scenario with Terminators coming in to kill everyone. The players are tasked with fortifying the town while not realizing the parasite is taking over internally.
The movie was terrible overall but I suffered through, just for you!