PICKIN’ THE CARCASS: INFESTATION (2009)
By Michael Arruda
Welcome to another edition of PICKIN’ THE CARCASS, that column where we snack on movie leftovers, looking for goodies left inside the DVD bin.
Tonight we check out INFESTATION (2009), a tale of mutant bugs gone wild, now available on DVD.
INFESTATION gets off to a fast start as we quickly meet a slacker named Cooper (Chris Marquette) who’s about to be fired from his job. In fact, Cooper’s boss is in the process of firing him when they both hear a high pitched sound that is so painful they lose consciousness.
Cooper wakes up to find himself wrapped inside a strange web-like substance. As he breaks out of the web, he is promptly attacked by a giant bug that resembles an oversized cockroach, about the size of a large dog. Cooper successfully fights off the giant bug and then wakes up his boss, also encased in a large web. In fact, everyone in the city is unconscious and wrapped in webs.
Cooper’s boss remembers that her daughter had been waiting outside the office building in her car to pick her up for a lunch date, and so they venture outside to search for her. They find her inside her car, and as they unwrap her, a giant flying insect swoops down and carries Cooper’s screaming boss away.
These are the two basic threats in INFESTATION, giant crawling roach bugs, and giant flying bugs that whisk people away into the sky.
Cooper and his boss’ daughter, Sara (Brooke Nevin) wake up several of the people around them, and in standard post-apocalyptic horror movie fashion, they band together and try to make sense of it all. They also devise a plan of action, which refreshingly enough makes sense.
Cooper suggests they make their way to his father’s house because his father, a retired military man, is a fanatic who stockpiles weapons and ammunition in his house, materials they could use against the giant bugs. Sara wants to head towards the monstrous nest they see in the distance because she believes that’s where the flying insects are taking their prisoners. She hopes to find her mother alive there.
Along the way, they make another grisly discovery, that the people who have been stung by the insects turn into human/insect hybrids, and these hybrids are just as deadly as the insects.
The ante is upped when Sara is also whisked away by a flying insect, and Cooper must turn to his fanatic dad (Ray Wise) for help.
INFESTATION isn’t going to win any awards for best horror movie of the year, but it is a fun movie that has a lot going for it.
Writer/director Kyle Rankin does a very good job with the material. The story is lively, the characters well-written, and the action scenes well-done.
The film does suffer at times from a case of the “goofies” as it gravitates towards the silly. I guess Rankin thought a story about giant bugs was too goofy to be taken seriously, which is too bad because I would have preferred INFESTATION had it been made as a straight horror movie. But, for the most part, the humor doesn’t go overboard.
There’s no explanation given as to why there are giant bugs all over the place, but unlike the recent movie SKYLINE (2010) where I felt suffocated by the lack of pacing, here the pacing is quick, slick, and energetic, so much so you don’t care that no explanation is given because you’re having too much fun watching the movie.
The characters make decisions that make sense in the face of catastrophe, and their explanations of what they’re doing and why are exceedingly clear. Their common sense is refreshing. I also totally bought their drive to get to the nest to save their loved ones, as opposed to “why in the world would they be going there?”
I found Chris Marquette annoying as Cooper at first, but his performance grew on me as the movie went along, and by the end of the movie, I was rooting for him to succeed. Even better than Marquette was Brooke Nevin as Sara. Nevin delivered a believable, three-dimensional performance, a strong heroine legitimately concerned about her missing mother. I also bought her relationship with Cooper. She’s turned off by him at first, but as the story goes along, she warms up to him. Nevin delivers the best performance in the movie.
The rest of the cast is also very good. There’s not a weak link among them. Even Ray Wise as Cooper’s dad Ethan hits the mark in what could have been a strictly clichéd character, a retired military officer turned weapons fanatic. Instead, Wise brings Ethan to life as a sympathetic character who you actually like by the end of the movie. Of course, part of the credit for this belongs to writer Kyle Rankin for fleshing out these characters so well.
The special effects are adequate. The CGI effects are pretty good, and there’s also some use of giant models in some scenes where people are wrestling with the bugs. These models do look fake, but the quick camerawork enables Rankin to get away with this. It’s a quick glimpse and then back to CGI. Somehow, it works. And unlike the recent movie MONSTERS (2010) where the monsters for the most part forgot to show up, there are plenty of giant insects here. You won’t be disappointed.
There are also some well placed gruesome scenes in this one. Director Rankin doesn’t hold back on the gore. The human/insect hybrids are actually pretty scary, and I found them more frightening than the giant insects.
INFESTATION is a lot of fun. It reminded me a lot of the classic TREMORS (1990), though not as good, and more recently EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS (2002). It doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet it doesn’t allow its humor to get in the way of its horror tale. It strikes a good balance.
It does have a weak ending. I’m just not a fan of open-ended conclusions. It’s like ending a novel with a question. Very lame.
All in all, though, INFESTATION is a film worth checking out, especially if you like fast-paced giant bug movies.
I highly recommend it.
© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda