You know the worst thing about sitting through a horror/creature movie where a group of disparate characters are trapped in one locale and forced to put aside their differences and team up in order to survive the menace outside? You can pretty much count on at least one (sometimes more) asshole in the group that will antagonize everyone, and at the same time simply annoy the living crap out of the moviegoer. Screenwriters come up with these asshole characters because they believe it’s an easy way to elicit interpersonal conflict without trying too hard. (Hey, want conflict? Put a KKK guy in the same room with a black dude from the ghetto, and watch the fireworks!) It’s lazy and predictable writing, and of course, the forced conflict annoys to no end. Kyle Rankin, the writer/director of “Infestation” apparently feels the same way, because as soon as he introduces the asshole characters in his movie, he immediately kills them off. Needless to say, I’m gonna like this movie.
“Infestation” wastes little time with its setup: we are introduced to smart-aleck slacker Cooper (Chris Marquette), who has turned his job into one big joke. Unfortunately for Cooper, people have noticed that he’s not a very good employee; fortunately for Cooper, as soon as he’s fired by his boss, a mysterious noise knocks out everyone in the office. By the time Cooper wakes up, he’s covered in cocoon webbing along with everyone in the city. And oh yeah, giants bugs are roaming the hallways of his office building, as well as the streets outside. To make matters worse, these bugs have airborne counterparts that like to drop out of the sky at the most inopportune time and snatch victims off to their nest.
In short order, Cooper meets, saves, and is in turned saved by plucky doctor Sara (Brooke Nevin), the daughter of Cooper’s boss, who has just been snatched off the streets by one of the flying giant bugs. Together, they free other survivors: the hot but fragile Cindy (Kinsey Packard), a father and son, and Leechee (Linda Park), who seems to know an awful lot about insects, poisons, and other strange scientific facts. Together, the survivors devise a plan to brave the city streets and swarm of giant bugs in order to reach Cooper’s father (Ray Wise), a kooky survivalist who happens to have a bomb shelter underneath his home.
The proper label for “Infestation” would be horror-comedy, as it generally doesn’t take itself all that seriously, even though it does drop in the occasional out-of-left-field moments that manage to shock you anyway. A movie like “Infestation”, with its giant bug premise, would come across as silly had it been saddled with a serious script. Fortunately thanks to its laughs, “Infestation” is able to get away with TV movie-level CG effects and a superficial attitude that mirrors its leading man’s personality. In the midst of great personal danger and the potential end of the world, our hero is not above putting the moves on the ladies, though curiously turns down a freebie later in the film.
“Infestation” is fronted by Chris Marquette, playing one of those likeable losers who is a good guy, but somehow manages to get everyone else in trouble along with him because he just doesn’t take anything seriously enough. Marquette makes for an atypical hero, but in a movie with giant flying bugs, is actually preferable over the buff, square-jawed man-of-action archetype. Brooke Nevin, as the spunky love interest, makes a good foil for Cooper. There is actually chemistry between the two leads, which is not an easy feat given that their characters literally meet one moment and fall for each other the next. It’s silly writing, to be sure, but Marquette and Nevin make it cute anyway.
“Infestation” is not going to blow you away, or rank up there as one of the greatest creature features you’ve ever seen. It certainly doesn’t challenge you in terms of genre expectations, but to its credit, the film does do what it set out to do – turn in a fun, no-frills bug movie. For the most part, the script manages to avoid lulls in the running time, and genre veteran Ray Wise backs up a young, mostly unknown but more than capable supporting cast. Direction by Kyle Rankin keeps things moving at a nice fast clip, and provides plenty of thrills, spills, and for those of you who won’t be seeing the film on TV, a little surprise dose of T&A.
“Infestation” will be making its SyFy Channel premiere sometime in October, just ahead of the film’s DVD release date.
Kyle Rankin (director) / Kyle Rankin (screenplay)
CAST: Chris Marquette … Cooper
Brooke Nevin … Sara
Kinsey Packard … Cindy
Linda Park … Leechee
E. Quincy Sloan … Hugo
Wesley Thompson … Albert
Ray Wise … Ethan