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Parasyte: The Grey Review | An Astounding Body Horror Series from Korea


Parasyte: The Grey Review | An Astounding Body Horror Series from Korea


Summary

  • Excellent characters and a wonderfully orchestrated plot make
    Parasyte: The Grey
    a thrilling watch.
  • Unique body horror designs, great action sequences, and talented actors come together for a phenomenal TV series.
  • The mature adaptation doesn’t spend time with the philosophical and ethical subtext of the original mange but excels in storytelling and character.



The old Invasion of the Body Snatchers notion of aliens taking on human form and blending into society has been milked for decades, but it never really gets old; it’s such a perfect foundation to explore a multitude of ideas. The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers was remade three times, with each version addressing different sociopolitical issues. The Thing and They Live are very different John Carpenter masterpieces with the same idea — aliens taking on human form. If done well, the old concept can still make for incredible viewing. And Parasyte: The Grey is done very well.


What a show this is! Great characters, incredible action sequences, imaginative horror elements, and a gripping plot are all present in this Netflix sci-fi thriller. Parasyte: The Grey doesn’t waste any time, beginning with hard, spiky shells falling from the sky, each containing a squirmy little alien larva. Some of them land in the grass of a stadium-sized EDM festival in South Korea, and we follow one slug-like alien crawl into the ear of a drunk, sleepy man. Soon, he’s controlled by the alien and, in a full crowd of people, splits his own head open and unleashes deadly tentacles on everyone in his vicinity.

From there, we’re introduced to our main character, Jeong Su-in, the type of person who’s perpetually tethered to a dark rain cloud in life. She’s suffered a lot, but damaged people are survivors. She’s about to suffer a lot more when a psychopathic incel has an altercation with her at her grocery store job and follows her home, ultimately running her off the road and stabbing her repeatedly with a knife. Suddenly, the murderous nutjob is split in half down the middle of his body, and Jeong is fine. Thus begins this wildly entertaining series.



Parasyte: The Grey Is Masterfully Set Up and Developed

Parasyte The Grey poster

Parasyte: The Grey

4.5/5

Release Date
April 5, 2024

Cast
Jeon So Nee , Koo Kyo Hwan , Lee Jung Hyun , Kwon Hae Hyo , Kim In Kwon

Seasons
1

Writers
Ryu Yong Jae , Yeon Sang Ho

Directors
Yeon Sang Ho

Pros

  • Excellent characters and a wonderfully designed plot.
  • Extremely entertaining action sequences with imaginative horror.
  • While it lacks the philosophy of Parasyte, it’s an original and brilliant adaptation.

Parasyte: The Grey cleanly and coherently introduces us to a variety of characters in its first episode, expertly sewing together disparate threads and wonderfully setting up the show before the second episode. We meet Seol Kang-woo, a low-level gangster who is on the run after attempting to kill the leader of a rival gang, returning home only to find his younger sister missing and his older sister acting coldly indifferent.

Meanwhile, we follow a senior detective in Namil, the city Jeong lives is. Kim Cheol-min was the detective who arrested Jeong’s father when she was 10 years old and chose to report the constant violent abuse she endured at his hands. Now, Kim is interested in Jeong’s strange case where she was attacked by a maniac but somehow survived, and the maniac was found cut in half. He’s a protector, but he’s not sure how to protect her.


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That’s because Jeong is possessed by an alien parasite, but in a way that’s very different from the other murderous ones. When the alien larva entered Jeong’s brain, the woman had been stabbed several times and was bleeding out, dying in a field. The parasite (who becomes known as Heidi, as in Jekyll and Hyde) has to exert all its energy healing Jeong’s body or it will die with her, and is thus unable to fully take control over Jeong.

The result is an odd mutation where the parasite will take over Jeong when her life is threatened in order to protect her, but only for a short amount of time. The scene in which they first communicate, with Jeong writing a question and falling asleep, waking up to find an answer Heidi wrote, is thrilling fun.


Excellent Action and a Perfect Lee Jung-hyun

The characters are all interesting and well-developed, and the actors (especially Koo Kyo-hwan as Seol) all do a great job, avoiding the cheesy melodramatics that can occasionally surface in K-dramas (and sci-fi, for that matter). Creator Yeon Sang-ho of Train to Busan and Psychokinesis fame knows exactly what he’s doing here and has a firm understanding of his characters and the actors who play them.

One of the most purely entertaining is Choi Jun-kyung, the leader of Team Grey, a parasite-killing unit that comes into Namil, where they believe parasites are congregating and scheming. Choi is a smiling, almost demented woman who is a little too passionate about killing parasites, for some disturbing personal reasons that the show explains. She’s played by the chameleonic Lee Jung-hyun (“The Queen of Transformation”), a true artist who is seemingly capable of anything.


And so Parasyte: The Grey brilliantly sets up the police and the special Team Grey unit, the parasites and the mutated anomaly that is Jeong. While most media with the aliens-possessing-humans plot will intentionally not distinguish the body snatchers from each other (they’re usually all in communication and act more like one organism), Parasyte: The Grey has fun making the parasites unique. They aren’t telekinetically connected, and have an individuality to them that allows for different motives. They also have different powers and transformational terrors.

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The action sequences with the parasites are genuine spectacles, their faces breaking open and different kinds of appendages coming out to assist them. Some of them will use tentacles to leap around like The Hulk; one of them stretches its skin into wings to fly; one of them unspools an extremely long tentacle with an eyeball to check behind corners. When Heidi comes out and we finally see two parasites fight each other, it’s downright exhilarating.

This Parasyte Lacks Philosophy but Transcends the Manga and Anime

Honestly, Parasyte: The Grey is a perfect series as it is, but knowing the source material might lead one to lament the absence of some themes and content. The original Parasyte manga and anime (and live-action films) are very different from The Grey, and are more in line with the typical ‘teenager coming-of-age with a powerful supernatural skill’ trope like Death Note, Jujutsu Kaisen, or My Hero Academia. It’s refreshing for Parasyte: The Grey to take a more mature approach. But the adaptation does miss out on the haunting philosophical themes of its source material.


The best aspect of Parasyte was how it questioned our anthropocentric view of reality and stretched our perception of life. It reminded us that we are no different from parasites, using Earth as our host, and deconstructed our tendency to view history and life through a strictly human lense. If something more powerful and organized evolved (or landed on Earth) and landed at the top of the food chain, maybe we’d be reminded that humanity is only one organism on a planet that contains many.


Parasyte: The Grey doesn’t touch on the philosophical, ethical, and environmental aspects of the original manga, unfortunately, but that’s okay, we can interpolate. Jeong and Heidi become fascinating (and powerful) characters because they are destined into a symbiotic relationship rather than a purely parasitic one. It’s a reminder that total domination and possession isn’t the only way to approach other organisms. Sometimes it’s more mutually beneficial to cooperate, something the characters learn in Parasyte: The Grey, one of the best shows of the year.

Parasyte: The Grey is produced by Climax Studio and Wow Point, and is now streaming on Netflix. You can watch it through the link below:

Watch Parasyte: The Grey

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