The ending of another year is a time that lends itself to reflection. So let’s look back on the good old days, when going to the supermarket didn’t feel like a health hazard, when cinemas were open and releases were on schedule, and when a South Korean film director giggled at the Oscars he won (so many he apologised to the engravers) and declared “I will drink until next morning,” before posing for photos and making his statues kiss.

When Parasite won Best Picture at this year’s Oscars (the first non-English language film to do so) amid an unprecedented awards-season run, it felt like a shining moment of hope. The Los Angeles Times described it as “a much-needed slap to the American film industry’s narcissism, its long-standing love affair with itself, its own product and its own image.” Variety described it as a vote for “a future of storytellers who come from fresh places, who see our passions and dilemmas with new eyes, who invent new forms.” #BongHive trended on social media and there was an outpouring of love and celebration for a moment – and the movie that sparked it, along with the creatives behind it – that felt truly significant.

Bong Joon-ho making his Oscars kiss

Courtesy of: AP

With a frankly intimidating number of awards to its name, and a damn sight more nominations to boot, chances are you’ve heard from someone, somewhere, that Parasite is a very good film. Celebrated by seemingly every film body and festival in the book, lauded by critics, and revered by audiences all around the world, the movie stirred up so much excitement it’s nigh-on impossible not to take note. So, what’s the hype all about?

Parasite is an upstairs-downstairs long-con comedy psychological slasher flick that holds you captive from start to finish. That might sound complicated, but told via earnest characters with ardently-felt motivations, every twist and turn the film takes is primed to ensnare. As the narrative evolves these twists and turns begin to feel positively labyrinthian in proportion. The open plan set design only adds to that ever-increasing sense of agoraphobia, leaving very few places left for anyone — or anything — to hide. Throw in the stunning cinematography by Hong Kyung-pyo (with a great many exquisite stairwell shots) and what you’ve got is a film that manages to offer both style and substance in delicious excess.

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Courtesy of: Curzon Artificial Eye

With Parasite, director Bong Joon-Ho proves himself a master of suspense. The pacing of the film is nigh-on immaculate. Tensions between the different characters ebb and flow from different points at different paces, all twisting and building towards an end result you just know is going to be monstrous, but can’t quite get a grasp on how all the inevitabilities are going to play out at once. When they do? It’s an accelerated slow-motion shitstorm of a spectacle — and it’s rapturous.

While the rest of the films suspense plays victim to pathetic fallacy (torrential rain as chaos enters through the front door), the final act takes influence from the Hitchcock school of filmmaking (“murder by a babbling brook drenched in sunshine is more interesting than murder in a dark and noisome alley littered with dead cats and offal”). Simply put, it takes place on a gorgeously sunny day.

The stage — or rather, the back garden — is set for a celebration. There are conversations in the air, a cake in the kitchen, and- Well, let’s not spoil what’s in the cellar, shall we? It all leads to a bright and brutal comeuppance for all the characters from which no one comes out unscathed – not even us.

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Courtesy of: Curzon Artificial Eye

It’s as enrapturing as it is harrowing to watch. So much has been building towards this point — so many different tensions sparked and teased — that when we reach the grand conclusion, it’s cataclysm of the highest disorder: a combination of blood, BBQ food, and frosting making for striking imagery that will continue to haunt you long after the film ends.

And this film will haunt you, it’s characters and their circumstances lingering on in your mind like ghosts. For as much as you might have hoped it, there was never going to be a triumphant ending to this story. The characters are either left hollow versions of who they were when we were introduced or removed from the picture entirely. Our lack of full comprehension mirrors theirs, and any dissatisfaction is not dissimilar to their own. In fact, when the film reaches its conclusion, it’s startling to realise how little has changed since the film started.

“That’s why people shouldn’t make plans,” Kim Ki-Taek (Song Kang Ho) warns his son in one of the film’s more sombre, quiet moments. “With no plan, nothing can go wrong and if something spins out of control, it doesn’t matter. Whether you kill someone or betray your country. None of it fucking matters.” Yet the film’s final scene is exactly that: Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) making another plan.

Parasite Bong Joon Ho 007

Courtesy of: Curzon Artificial Eye

“’You know what I think?’ she says. ‘That people’s memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive.’” This quote, from Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, has felt especially poignant in a year spent in and out of lockdowns. Memories are fuel in Parasite, too. The good moments practically radiate with light and warmth, while the bad are the sparks that drive these characters ever-further on the twisted paths they tread. If you look from a distance, how do you tell those two flames apart?

Parasite is class warfare locked in a stalemate. There’s no progress or change. Nothing is learned or gained (other than perhaps a compulsion to check behind your shelving units). After sitting in the dark for two hours to watch this film, chances are nothing will have changed for you either. Beautiful? Yes. Beguiling? Definitely. With a lingering emotion that’s nothing short of bleak, Parasite is a film that will work its way into your mind and make itself at home there, much like- Well, we don’t want to give the game away, do we?

So to recap, here’s our Top 20 so far…

=#20 – Shirley
=#20 – A Hidden Life
#19 – And Then We Danced
#18 – Dick Johnson is Dead
#17 – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
#16 – Wolfwalkers
#15 – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
#14 – True History of the Kelly Gang
#13 – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
#12 – Lovers Rock
#11 – Ema
#10 – Mangrove
#9 – Rocks
#8 – 1917
#7 – Bacurau
#6 – Babyteeth
#5 – The Lighthouse
#4 – Uncut Gems
#3 – Little Women
#2 – Portrait of a Lady on Fire
#1 – Parasite

Bring on 2021.