Film and Plot Synopsis
In Parasite, Ki-taek is a jobless, penniless, and hopelessly unmotivated patriarch of an equally unambitious family. While he has a supportive wife, Chung-sook; his cynical twenty-something daughter, Ki-jung, and his college-aged son, Ki-woo work for very low wages to help pay for their dingy basement-level apartment. One day, a lucrative business proposition paves the way them to con an affluent family out of their money. Ki-woo poses as an English tutor for the teenage daughter of the Park family which leads him to have more of his family hired under false pretenses; leading one to ask, how do you get rid of a parasite once an infestation begins?
‘Parasite’ Movie Summary
One day, Ki-woo’s friend Min-hyuk (Park Seo-joon) visits the basement apartment and presents the family with a scholar’s rock which is supposed to bring the family wealth. Min-hyuk also asks Ki-woo if he would be willing to take over one of his tutoring jobs for him while he is studying abroad. Min-hyuk trusts Ki-woo not to become romantically involved with his student Park Da-hye (Jeong Ji-so) because Ki-woo will have to lie and pretend that he himself is a college student, something that he is most definitively not.
Da-hye is the wealthy daughter of Park Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun). The Park family lives in a spacious, but very isolated mansion in the middle of the city. Ki-woo and Ki-jeong are able to forge Ki-woo’s credentials and convince Yeon-gyo (Cho Yeo-jeong) to hire him to be her daughter’s English tutor.
During the first lesson, Ki-woo is able to learn that the family has been struggling to find an art teacher for their young son Park Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun). Ki-woo lies to Yeon-gyo and says he knows a very exclusive, and expensive, art tutor that he will put the family in contact with. Ki-woo then has his sister pretend to be both an art tutor and art therapist, and she is subsequently hired as well by the Parks.
With the Kim children safely entrenched in the Park household, the two children work on getting their parents jobs as employees of the Park family as a personal driver and a housekeeper. The Kim Family then proceeds to work for the Park family, even though the Park family never knows that they are all related to one another. At the same time, Ki-woo begins a romantic relationship with Da-hye, even though she is much younger than him.
One weekend, the Parks leave on a camping trip and the Kims occupy the mansion while the owners are away. That night, Gook Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun), the previous housekeeper that Chung-sook replaced comes to the house ringing the doorbell in the middle of the night. She tells Chung-sook that she left something in the basement that she needs to retrieve, and Chung-sook lets her in while the remaining members of the Kim family stay out of sight.
Moon-gwang frantically goes down to the basement and opens a secret passageway to an underground room where Moon-gwang’s husband, Geun-sae (Park Myung-hoon), has been hiding for four years unbeknownst to the Park family. Geun-sae is hiding from loan sharks that he owes money to, and Moon-gwang offers to pay Chung-sook money if she allows her husband to remain in hiding in the house. However, the remaining Kim family members are eavesdropping and accidentally stumble into view during the conversation. Realizing that the Kim family are conning the Park family, she rescinds her offer and threatens to expose the Kim family’s scam to the Parks.
A fight ensues in which the Kim family capture both Moon-gwang and Geun-sae and lock them back in the basement. However, during the struggle, Moon-gwang is seriously hurt and ultimately dies from her injuries. At the same time, the Park family calls and says they are returning from the camping trip early due to the horrible rain storm. They ask Chung-sook to prepare a meal and the rest of the Kim family scrabbles to clean up the house.
The Kim family is still in the house when the Park family returns. The Kims are forced to hide under tables and beds until the Parks fall asleep and they can safely get out of the house. While the rest of the family is in hiding, Yeon-gyo tells Chung-sook that her son had a traumatic incident years before when he saw a “ghost” in the house during his birthday. Her son had a seizure that he barely survived due to the short window of time they had to get him to a hospital. Chung-sook realizes that the young boy’s ghost was actually Geun-sae coming out of the hidden room looking for food.
Later that night, with the other three Kims hiding nearby, Dong-ik tells his wife that Ki-taek is a competent driver, but that he smells really bad. Eventually, the Parks go to sleep and the Kims make their escape from the house. However, when they return to their own basement apartment, they find it filled with sewage water and they are forced to stay in a shelter for the night. During their night in the shelter, Ki-woo asks his father what his plan is for dealing with the people in the basement of the Park house. His father says that the best plans are the ones that you never act on.
The next day, Yeon-gyo decides to throw an impromptu birthday celebration for her son. She and her husband invite all the Kims to attend as either guests or employees. Ki-woo takes the scholar’s rock with him with the intent to kill the people in the hidden basement.
While everyone is at the party in the yard, Ki-woo goes down to the basement to kill the married couple, unbeknownst to him that Moon-gwang is already dead. Her husband has been able to free himself and he attacks Ki-woo, ultimately knocking him unconscious by striking him in the head several times with the scholar’s rock. Geun-sae then goes upstairs and finds a butcher’s knife, determined to get revenge on the Kim family for the death of his wife.
Once upstairs, Geun-sae stabs Ki-jeong, killing her and frightening the young Park boy into another seizure. Geun-sae looks for Chung-sook and the two get into a vicious struggle. The Park parents are trying to get their boy to the hospital and demand the car keys from Ki-taek, who is trying unsuccessfully to save his daughter. He throws the keys, but they end up under Geun-sae’s body after he is killed by Chung-sook with a barbecue skewer.
Dong-ik goes to move Geun-sae to retrieve the keys and covers his nose due to the basement dweller’s foul odor. This sets something off in Ki-taek, who suddenly picks up the butcher knife and fatally stabs Dong-ik in front of his wife and children. Ki-taek then flees the scene of the crime leaving his dead daughter and his injured wife and son to face the authorities.
After several weeks in a coma, Ki-woo wakes up from a coma and is arrested. He and his mother are convicted for fraud and criminal trespass, but they are given probation. They return to their lives as basement dwellers and are followed by the police for a time since no one has ever seen Ki-taek again.
After police give up on the surveillance, Ki-woo climbs up onto a hillside that looks down on the former Park home. He notices that the porch light is blinking erratically and determines that it is Morse code. He discovers that the message being sent is from his father who tells him that after killing Dong-ik, he was able to sneak back into the hidden basement of the Park home. His father goes onto to tell him that he has been living there for several months, sneaking out only when he can to get food and water.
The film ends with Ki-woo writing his father back to tell him that he has a plan. A plan that entails him making something of his life and acquiring enough money so that he can buy the Park home. And on that day, his father simply needs to walk out of the basement to be reunited with his son and wife. The audience is shown how this plan is carried out, but then cuts back to Ki-woo sitting in his basement apartment writing the letter to his father. He has no way of delivering the letter to his father and no ability to carry out the plan.
Additional Film Information
- Parasite official website
- Peruse IMDb’s article on Parasite
- Learn more Parasite information at Wikipedia
- Get Parasite numbers at Box Office Mojo
- Find out what people think about Parasite at Metacritic
- Read Parasite reviews from the folks at Rotten Tomatoes