Criterion’s PARASITE Blu-ray is the Definitive Edition of the South Korean Stunner

Bong Joon-Ho’s Oscar-winning sensation continues to thrill and thrive in this stacked release

After an already-stellar career with the likes of Memories of Murder, The Host, and Mother in his filmography, the whirlwind success of Parasite and its director Bong Joon-Ho, has become the stuff of Hollywood legend. The Korean class comedy of horrors didn’t just rack up awards left and right–it firmly grasped hold of a long-brimming international rage and social unrest. Utilizing its director’s signature effortless and endless tonal shifts from humor and horror, Parasite creates a universally terrifying glimpse into the desperation to move above one’s station and the rampant socioeconomic inequality that fuels it.

The film tracks the unemployed Kim family as they struggle to make ends meet–until a chance encounter with a school friend (and a bit of document forgery) leads son Ki-Woo into the good graces of the exorbitantly wealthy Park family. Using every innovative and ruthless trick up their sleeves, the tight-knit Kim family each adopts a new identity that culminates in each of them being hired by the clueless Parks. Every action, though, has its own equal and opposite reaction — and the consequences of both the Kims’ new windfall and the Parks’ vile ignorance will soon come flooding back to haunt them.

With so much written about the film already, the short of it is, well, Parasite really is that good. It’s the ultimate Bong Joon-Ho movie, a raucous rollercoaster of genre from sleek crime caper to bone-chilling horror that evokes screams of laughter and terror in equal measure, with zero clue as to what new emotion or surprise may be lurking behind the next left turn. The film’s ensemble fires on all cylinders, each showcasing their impressive range as they put on multiple personas depending on their situation, whether consciously or not. My personal favorite is Park So-Dam as low-key Kim mastermind Ki-Jung, who by my count plays no less than 3 roles throughout Parasite–all distinguished by subtle yet comedically crucial variations in tone and accent, whether as herself, a worldly “art therapist,” or a smarmy dismissive phone line operator. All of the Parks and Kims vividly bring their characters to life–and navigate each tonal shift with the grace, skill, and cutthroat determination of bloodthirsty Olympic fencers.

Every behind department works at the top of their game as well — including the deliberately detailed production design, the immaculately-timed cinematography and editing, and the invisible VFX that ties all their work together. At its core is Bong Joon-Ho’s direction and screenplay, full of wit and heart, recognizing the villainy and valor that exists in each of his characters–recognizing that no matter who commits the worst of the film’s actions, that the larger societal forces at work are the things exacting the most cruelty…and will largely survive Bong’s film unscathed–but thankfully not un-indicted.

Arriving at a timely one-year anniversary mark since the film’s original U.S. release, Criterion brings Parasite back into the public conversation with a release that’s crammed full of insightful and extensive special features. Where Parasite’s original Blu-ray release featured only the 2019 Fantastic Fest Q&A with Director Bong as its sole extra, this two-disc release contains an additional Black & White version of the film, a newly-recorded commentary and interviews with the film’s crew, a storyboard comparison, and two Q&A sessions from the film’s festival circuit run. Each aspect of Parasite’s production is examined in fine detail, in addition to vital context for it and its director’s place in the New Korean Cinema canon by both fellow Korean creatives as well as critics abroad. There’s much to glean from the over 4 hours of bonus material here, whether you’re on your first or fifteenth viewing of Parasite–and ensures that the film will continue to have a high replay value for years to come.


Criterion has included two cuts of Parasite for this release, one in its original color and another in Black & White, both in 2.39:1 from 4K transfers of the film’s original 6.5K digital master supervised by Director Bong and cinematographer Hong Kyung-Pyo. Already a transfer from a natively high-res digital format, Parasite’s imagery looks stellar throughout this disc, with highlights being the film’s minutely-detailed production design. The sharp angles of wood, glass, and stone of the Park house are sleek and elegant, compared to the lived-in grime nestled in the chipped tile and brick of the Kims’ sub-basement apartment. The shadows of staircases are quite expansive, with no visible crush in blacks or grays, and the beads of rain and sweat on characters’ faces (especially during a storm sequence) are all sharply accounted for rather than disappearing into uniform DNR.


Both versions of Parasite are presented with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack (Note: Downmixed to 5.1 for the DVD edition), remastered from the film’s digital audio master files. English subtitles are provided across the disc, save for Parasite’s commentary track and other instances where brief English may be spoken in the film’s special features. One of Parasite’s secret strengths is the lush operatic frenzy of Jang Jae-Il’s score–which this track preserves in all its comedic grandeur. The film’s sound design–from the crisp rush of counting cash, to the click of running dogs on tile, to the sickening thwack of certain incidents downstairs in the Park house–is impressively layered here, effortlessly recreating the immersive experience of seeing Parasite at your local theater or film festival. One important detail about the film’s subtitles–the italicization of using English phrases to differentiate it from Korean dialogue, often peppered in by Mrs. Park in an air of superiority–is thankfully transferred to the disc’s subtitles, as well.

Special Features

Disc One:

  • Audio Commentary with writer-director Bong Joon-Ho and film critic Tony Rayns, in English. This might be one of Criterion’s most fun tracks–Rayns and Bong have a clear rapport, even when recording a commentary track in real-time from separate continents. Virtually every aspect of the film is discussed, including some additional production details that caught me by surprise even on my sixth viewing.
  • Conversations with Bong Joon-Ho, cinematographer Hong Kyung-Pyo, production designer Lee Ha-Jun, and editor Yang Jin-Mo. Each interview is conducted separately, with Bong’s moderated by film critic Darcy Pacquet, who also performed the translation for the film’s English subtitles for domestic release. Spanning 94 minutes, these insightful interviews are an in-depth examination of the individual craft and skill that went into creating some of Parasite’s most memorable moments, from influences ranging across Korean and Western cinema, the continuing working relationship between department heads and Bong Joon-Ho, and the technical secrets behind Parasite’s shifts in tone and genre.
  • Trailers for the U.S. release of Parasite from distributor NEON.

Disc Two:

  • Introduction by Bong Joon-Ho to the Black & White version of Parasite. Bong discusses the experimental decision to create this version, which he previously attempted with his 2009 film Mother, as well as the expansive capabilities of mastering the film’s audio track in Dolby Atmos. It’s noted that the film isn’t just Parasite with the color removed–there was extensive re-grading of the film done to enhance contrast and create an essentially new take on the film.
  • New Korean Cinema: In one of the Blu’s best coups, Director Bong Joon-Ho and fellow Korean film titan Park Chan-Wook (The Vengeance Trilogy, The Handmaiden) give an oral history of their beginnings in the South Korean film industry in the midst of the country’s massive regime change and subsequent greater artistic exposure to the West.
  • Cannes Press Conference from the film’s landmark 2019 premiere, featuring Bong and cast members Song Kang-Ho, Lee Sun-Kyun, Cho Yeo-Jeong, Choi Woo-Shik, Park So-Dam, Chang Hyae-Jin, and Lee Jung-Eun.
  • Lumière Festival Master Class: A 1.5-hour-long public interview with Bong Joon-Ho conducted at the 2019 festival in Lyon, France.
  • Storyboard Comparison: 7 minutes of Bong’s hand-drawn storyboards for the film, accompanied by their equivalent in the final cut of the film.
  • Trailer from South Korea for the Black & White re-release of Parasite.

Also included is an Essay by Hollywood Reporter film critic Inkoo Kang. Here, Kang discusses how humor is often a gateway to justified societal outrage throughout Bong’s work, the origins of Bong’s beliefs and style in his coming-of-age in South Korea’s political climate, and the culmination of both across his films from Memories of Murder through to international acclaim with The Host, into his first international features with Snowpiercer and Okja, and finally into Parasite itself.

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