The “Parasite” House Was Built From Scratch—Here’s How They Did It

updated Feb 12, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: © Neon / courtesy Everett Collection

[Spoilers ahead for “Parasite”]

“Parasite” might have won Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature Film, and Best Original Screenplay at the recent Academy Awards, but it didn’t win Best Production Design.

Which is a shame, seeing how deceptively brilliant the set decorations were.

If you haven’t seen “Parasite” yet (the entire internet suggests you should), the Bong Joon-Ho film revolves around a down-on-their-luck family of four infiltrating the lives of one-percenters, posing as their tutors, their maid, and their driver. The setting focuses mainly on the lavish house, which seems normal as far as lavish houses go, but contains a secret. SPOILER ALERT: There’s a hidden room underneath the basement! Hilarity and intrigue ensue!

While it might be hard to believe (much like the hidden room in the basement) the crew didn’t film in one single house. The mansion was made from four different sets, which when paired with clever camera work and some green screen magic, appeared to be one unified structure, according to an interview Bong did with IndieWire.

According to Bong, he envisioned the home’s layout to be simple—a living room, a garden, a kitchen, and a staircase that leads to the bedrooms—yet one that contains blocking lines that would allow the characters to eavesdrop like the parasites that they are.

“I had to really meticulously design the house itself. It’s like its own universe inside this film,” Bong told IndieWire. “Each character and each team has spaces that they take over that they can infiltrate, and also secret spaces that they don’t know. So the dynamic between these three teams and the dynamic of space, they were very much intertwined and I think that combination really created an interesting element to this film.”

The basement was also constructed separately from the rest of the house, and ditto with the subterranean bunker.

Because the story is about class divide, the crew put great emphasis on creating contrast between the rich family’s house and the poor family’s basement apartment. The lot for the mansion, for instance, was chosen specifically for the sun’s positioning, able to provide “sophisticated indirect lighting,” said production designer Lee Ha Jun, that’s common in any modern home. The poor family’s dingy apartment, meanwhile, had limited access to windows. 

“The poorer you are, the less sunlight you have access to, and that’s just how it is in real life as well,” said Bong.

As for the props, the production designer went as far as getting actual expensive items, such as a table made of cherry wood ($19,800), a brass lamp ($14,000), the dining table where the rich mother meets the tutor ($22,300), the accompanying dining chairs ($2,100 apiece), and a stainless-steel mesh painting depicting a forest ($120,000). 

I almost forgot to mention the trash can costs $2,300. Bong remarked: “Me and my crew members were like, ‘What kind of idiot would buy a trash can that’s going to smell anyway?’”

For more on the film’s production design, including how they managed to create that pivotal flood scene, check out the full interview on IndieWire.