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May 4, 2010

Infestation

2009, Dir. by Kyle Rankin.

There are a lot of times when reviewing a film can be a challenge to a writer. For me, this is most common when discussing a movie like Survival of the Dead whose connections (in that case, legendary director George A. Romero) raise the bar for the viewer before they even have a chance to consider their reaction to the film. Then there are films like Infestation, whose appearance leaves little hope for the prospective viewer. Even after hearing some positive reviews and recognizing some cast members (Chris Marquette of Freddy vs. Jason and Ray Wise of tons of awesome movies) it still looked like something I'd find on the SyFy network. To my surprise, this turned out to be the type of film that I actually get excited to discuss. My low expectations were surpassed in every manner, and I ended up finding a deeply enjoyable creature feature.

As you can tell from the poster image that this text is hugging, Infestation is a film that asks its audience if they're ready for "global swarming". That swarming comes in the form of one of the B-Movie's greatest treasures, giant bugs. (In fact, the Japanese title for the film is Big Bugs Panic - and when the Japanese are giving your monster movie a loving title like that, you know you're in for some fun.)

Infestation follows Cooper (Marquette), a life-long slacker, and a group of survivors as they try to survive the insect apocalypse by finding somewhere that's safe - preferably Cooper's ex-military father's reinforced home. The group is a relatively standard one for this type of film - self-confident brunette, codependent blonde, smart Asian, strong African American (who doubles as the disabled member of the group), and African American handyman. Despite this, the characters seem relatively fresh and are a far more enjoyable group to follow than most horrors of late, especially since we're spared the "self-obsessed and possibly fascist prep/jock" character that we see far too often. None of the characters exist just to become a victim, and the film takes steps to establish them individually in the opening acts. It might not succeed entirely in this regard, but the effort that is made is welcome in a film whose premise might not require a script under other filmmakers.

While we're finding out who the characters are, there are a lot of bugs, which seem to be about 5 feet long and 4 feet wide most of the time. This provides a menace whose scale is similar to the humans, and that allows for a lot of hand-to-tentacle combat to take place. There is also a twist to the film in which some human/bug "hybrids" are introduced, and I won't spoil the initial moment of surprise by explaining their look here. Both sets of creatures look pretty cheesy, but that's exactly the kind of film this is. In fact, the goofiness of the creatures is one of the film's biggest charms to a b-movie monster fan like myself.

The film seems to stumble a little in the second act, but it picks up the pace when we're finally introduced to Cooper's father, played by Wise. The veteran star of everything from Swamp Thing to Jeepers Creepers 2 to TV's Reaper (plus he was in RoboCop!) takes control of each scene he's in, and he plays off Marquette perfectly. Wise's portrayal of the overbearing father also leads to the film's best dramatic moments, and a few late film twists gain added power due to his willingness to embrace the film's tone.

Infestation, like several independent horror films of recent years, leans heavily on the standards for horror comedies that Shaun of the Dead promoted. But unlike many of those films that seemed to be designed for their own amusement, Infestation never panders to the audience and keeps its primary focus on being a "Man vs. Creatures" tale. I'm not sure if I've seen another film pull that off as well since Shaun, which means that Infestation left me with a goofy smile that I'm sure will return during future viewings. Thanks to that charm and a teasing final moment, I hope to see Kyle Rankin and crew return for another Infestation. On its own, I can't recommend Infestation enough to anyone who is looking for a gratifying horror-comedy diversion.

3 comments:

Autumnforest said...

I'm so glad you reviewed this. This is just the kind of thing I've been looking for to break me from all the same-old, same-old. Thanks.

The Mike said...

Cool, hope you dig it! I was shocked by how much fun I had with it while actually enjoying the movie.

Tower Farm said...

Great review!

JM