Bong Joon Ho Has Finally Explained The Twisty Parasite Ending
Note: Contains major spoilers for Parasite
Bong Joon Ho's Oscar-nominated social thriller, Parasite, sees the lives of a rich and a poor family collide in ways they can never imagine, building to an unforgettable climax that leaves several questions unanswered.
And now the director—who co-wrote the movie with Han Jin Won—has opened up about the movie's ending and why he chose that powerful final scene.
Needless to say, huge spoilers are ahead and if you haven't seen Parasite yet, don't spoil it for yourself by reading on below. If you've seen it and want it all explained, then read on.
So, the first section of Parasite sees the Kim family—father Ki-taek, mother Chung-sook, son Ki-woo, and daughter Ki-jeong—worm their way into the Park family, starting with Ki-woo and Ki-jeong becoming tutors to the Park children.
They then conspire to get the Park's chauffeur fired and replaced with Mr Kim, as well as getting their housekeeper Moon-gwang fired and replaced by Mrs Kim.
But when the Kim family decide to make the most of the Park family's camping trip and stay over in the house, they get a major surprise when Moon-gwang comes back to get something she left in the basement... her husband Geun-sae.
Turns out he's been living in a bunker below the basement for years to avoid loan sharks, and Moon-gwang begs Mrs Kim to keep him a secret. The tables are turned though when Moon-gwang discovers the Kim family has been conning the Park family and threatens to expose them.
The Parks call to say they cut their camping trip short and are heading home, leading to a scuffle that ends up with Geun-sae and Moon-gwang back in the basement, with the latter falling down the stairs and suffering a fatal head injury.
After the Kim family manage to leave undetected, they return the next day for the birthday party for Da-song, the Parks' son.
Overcome with grief at the death of his wife, Geun-sae escapes the bunker and bludgeons Ki-woo with a rock, before stabbing Ki-jeong. His appearance leads to Da-song having a seizure as Geun-sae was the "ghost" he had seen around the house.
Mr Park frantically tries to get Mr Kim to drive Da-song to the hospital, but he just throws him the keys, which land under Geun-sae as he's fighting with Mrs Kim.
She manages to stab him with a meat skewer and Mr Park picks up the keys, recoiling from the smell of Geun-sae. Unwittingly, this triggers Mr Kim who is angered by Mr Park's constant reactions to his so-called smell, so he fatally stabs Mr Park and runs away.
Despite this shocking and violent ending, director Bong Joon Ho told Slash Film that he "didn't set out to make a violent movie".
"I had a feeling early on that the violence would gradually escalate as the story progresses and that it would ultimately lead to this unexpected tragedy, and I was prepared for that," he continued.
"If you think about these characters, they're all people who are very far removed from violence in their daily lives, they're just very normal and average people. So for me what was important was exploring what could get them to become violent."
The final section of Parasite sees Ki-woo wake up after a coma, somehow surviving the attack by Geun-sae, and we're told that there's been no sign of Mr Kim since he murdered Mr Park.
Ki-woo visits the Park house, sees the lights flickering and realises it's Morse code and a message from his father, who is now living in the Park basement like Geun-sae was.
As he writes a letter back to his father, we see Ki-woo becoming successful and buying the Park house so that he can be reunited with his father. It's only a fantasy though and the final shot of Parasite is Ki-woo in the basement of his run-down home.
Talking to Vulture, Bong Joon Ho calls the final shot a "surefire kill", the final gunshot you see in action movies to make sure someone is dead.
"Maybe if the movie ended where they hug and fades out, the audience can imagine, 'Oh, it's impossible to buy that house', but the camera goes down to that half-basement. It's quite cruel and sad, but I thought it was being real and honest with the audience," he explained.
"You know and I know—we all know that this kid isn't going to be able to buy that house. I just felt that frankness was right for the film, even though it's sad."
He added: "I'm not making a documentary or propaganda here. It's not about telling you how to change the world or how you should act because something is bad, but rather showing you the terrible, explosive weight of reality. That's what I believe is the beauty of cinema."
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by Esquiremag.ph editors.