”Find me the next Karen Allen,” Johanna Ray remembers director Charles Band telling her as she began casting his low-budget 1982 horror movie Parasite. It’s open to debate whether she found the next Allen, who was then costarring in the Indiana Jones adventure Raiders of the Lost Ark, but she did discover 18-year-old Demi Moore, a novice actress whose only prior appearance seems to have been on the cover of Oui magazine.
A rip-off of Alien that was originally shown in 3-D, Parasite centers on a postapocalyptic small town threatened by a sharp-toothed mutant that likes to leap at the camera. Moore, who plays Patricia, a loner who befriends a scientist (Robert Glaudini) burdened by a beastie in his belly, gets to deliver such lines as ”Hi, Collins,” ”Are you okay?” ”That thing on your stomach,” and ”Dammit! Don’t give up!” Adding to these indignities, Moore is also punched by a thug in a three-piece suit and burned by the dying parasite.
An independent feature shot just outside of Los Angeles in less than a month, Parasite ”wasn’t the kind of movie that was going to really showcase anybody’s talent,” says costar Luca Bercovici, who went on to direct such talent showcases as 1985’s Ghoulies and 1990’s Rockula. But while the movie may be forgettable, the future $12 million woman stuck in the memories of her colleagues. Bercovici, who played a gang leader, recalls a scene in which he tussles with Moore: ”She fully came up to the challenge. When you meet an actor who gives as good as they get, you say, ‘Yeah. There’s something there.”’
Moore’s off-camera behavior was striking too. ”She was very interested in what was going on, to a far greater degree than many other younger actresses that I’ve worked with before and that I’ve worked with since,” says script supervisor Veronica Flynn. ”If the crew was standing around talking, she’d come over and listen.” As Karen Allen herself would agree, there’s a lot you can pick up from an indie.