Reviewed by Phil Wheat
Stars Christopher Marquette, Brooke Nevin, E.Quincy Sloan, Ray Wise, Kinsey Packard, Bru Muller, Mike Straub, Linda Park,
Deborah Geffner, Wesley Thompson
Written by Kyle Rankin
Certification UK 15 | US R
Runtime 93 minutes
Directed by Kyle Rankin
When lifelong slacker Cooper Flynn (Marquette) is fired from his job he thinks his day couldn’t get any worse, but how wrong could one man be? Waking to find himself wrapped in a strange webbed cocoon, Cooper manages to free himself but then faces a life-or-death struggle with a enormous beetle-like creature.
After defeating the monster and freeing some of his co-workers from their cocoons, Cooper and a small band of survivors set out into the giant bug-infested city in order to find sanctuary in a bomb shelter at the home of Cooper’s ex-military father, played by Wise. Along the way Cooper tries to romance his bug-napped boss’s daughter Sara (Nevin) whilst fending off the advances of unhinged weathergirl (Packard). After a while the group soon discover that the bugs are blind, relying solely on sound to hunt their prey and that if you get stung you’ll soon be carrying eight extra legs of you own! But when Sara is kidnapped by one of the giant flying bugs, Cooper decides to mount a rescue mission that entails heading into a the bugs’ giant hive on the outskirts of town.
Director Rankin first came to prominence during the second season of Project Greenlight when he and Efram Potelle won the directorial competition and together co-directed the Shia LaBeouf starrer The Battle of Shaker Heights. But prior to that the two had directed many shorts and features including one, called Insex, that looks to have been the direct inspiration for both the film and it’s creature effects. The effects, from Rankin’s longtime collaborator Efram Potelle are impressive for what is obviously a low-budget film. What pleased this reviewer was that the filmmakers opted to use practical effects for the bulk of Infestation’s giant bug scenes, so when Marquette wrestles with the beetle at the beginning of the film it actually looks like he’s struggling with a huge insect rather than pantoming for the digital effects to be added in later. The film is not without the use of CGI however, but it is kept to a minimum and used mainly for the flying bugs in long distance shots, and for the human transformation sequences. There are plenty of gross-out effect sequences too, with each insect death comes buckets of white alien goop flying all over the screen.
Infestation is a FUN movie – blending the goofy and the gross to perfection, in much the same way as Eight Legged Freaks did – but Infestation does it much better thanks to top-notch acting and directing. Rankin manages to successfully create the same vibe as Shaun of the Dead but in a monster movie setting and like Simon Pegg in that film, Marquette makes for an endearing "no-action hero", his character embodies the same slacker ethos – only springing into action when necessary, before finally making the leap into true action hero status when “the girl” needs saving ala Pegg in Shaun…
The rest of the cast are emminently likeable. Nevin shines as Sara, she manages to successfully transition from being annoyed with Cooper to being in love with him without it ever feeling false or forced; Packard, as the unhinged weathergirl, adds a layer of depth to her role that if not present would make her character an immediately unlikeable vacuous airhead, rather than the severely traumatised person she is. A suprising casting choice was Sloan as a a hulking deaf man –I had only seen Sloan in the first series of SciFi’s reality show Who Wants To Be A Superhero, so his brilliant performance in Infestation came as a complete shock. Though a big guy, Sloan embodies his character Hugo with a childlike innocence, primarily through the use of body language and facial expression. It will be interesting to see what he can do with future roles.
Rankin’s secret weapon in Infestation however, is Ray Wise. Wise, as Marquettte’s father, doesn’t show up in the film until the end of the second act, but when he does he hams up his role to perfection. His barnstorming performance balances humour, disappointment, and pathos and he almost steals the show, it’s a testament to Christopher Marquette that he doesn’t quite manage it. The “killer insect” movie is a long standing tradition in the horror genre, from it’s heyday in the 70s with the likes of The Swarm and Kingdom of the Spiders, to the more recent giant spiders on the rampage in Eight Legged Freaks, but Infestation may just be the best yet …