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You couldn’t get anymore generic and predictable than the latest Creature Feature from the Sci Fi Channel, the only network in the world known most for their wholly illogical and plot hole-ridden movies. Got a movie about killer [insert animal species here] to sell, that no one will touch with a ten foot pole? Does your movie not make a lick of sense? Is your latest bug opus filled with gaping plot holes and stock characters? Is your script written by the Plot-o-Matic and is an exact carbon copy as the 5 million Creature Features that have come before it? Don’t sweat it, the Sci Fi Channel will buy your movie. All you have to do is make sure your movie has someone being eaten by something non-human.
You’ve probably figured out by now that “Larva” is another in a long line of predictable and clich’-ridden films that have found their way onto the schedule of the Sci Fi Channel. True to form, “Larva” is 90 minutes if unrestrained junk, filled to the brim with enough stock characters to fill out 10 more films of its ilk. For fans of the genre, all the conventions are present and accounted for: the Greedy CEO who only cares about profits and covering up his crimes; the Untrustworthy Corporation conducting Illegal Experiments in the pursuit of the Almighty Dollar; the Altruistic Hero who knows something is wrong, but no one believes because of a questionable past; and of course, what Generic Creature Feature could do without Unhelpful and Ignorant Law Enforcement.
“Larva” is so obsessively devoted to the conventions of its genre that the most entertaining aspect of the film is to check off all the predictable plot points as they come up, right down to the Mad Scientist and the Evil CEO getting their just desserts via their creations. The Illegal Experiment Gone Awry this time are parasitic creatures that grow into (what I can only describe as) flying bats with claws after they’ve been feeding on untested products the Evil Corporation has been giving to the local farmers of small town Host County. Unfortunately for all involved, the parasites don’t just eat the cattle and grow into big flying bats with claws, but they also like to infect the local population and burst out of their chest ala the creatures of the “Alien” franchise.
It’s up to Eli (Ventresca), a vet who has just moved into the small town to start his practice, to save the day. Predictably, as Eli starts to get close to the truth, he raises the ire of the Evil Corporation’s Evil CEO (David Selby), who sics corporate lawyer Hayley (former model Rachel Hunter) on him. Well actually Hayley doesn’t really do a lot except spill Eli’s shady past to the townspeople, which seems enough for them not to believe Eli’s warnings about the parasite population. Luckily for Eli, kooky rancher Jacob (William Forsythe) has never trusted the Evil Corporation, and he throws his lot in with Eli to expose The Truth before all is lost.
How does Eli and company manage to stop the parasites? To no one’s surprised, it involves a rather ludicrous concept that, miraculously enough, works. Perhaps realizing that their movie was basically nothing more than a series of by-the-numbers plotting as prescribed by Creature Feature Movie Law, the writers of “Larva” attempts to give the Evil CEO some sort of pathos. Heck, they even throw the guy a family scene or two just to prove that he’s not so evil after all. But of course the Plot-o-Matic won’t have any of that, which leads to the Evil CEO doing all those evil things you expect all Creature Feature Evil CEOs to do, namely deny everything and trying to cover it all up.
In some ways “Larva” could have been a mindless fun film, if only it didn’t take itself too seriously, especially in the beginning. Ventresca, usually the smart aleck in most movies, is dead serious for much of the movie, which basically negates the only reason I watched “Larva” in the first place. I came for a smart aleck Ventresca, and got a serious one instead, much to my chagrin. Matters aren’t helped by director Tim Cox, who insists on shooting much of the film by covering it in an orange-ish tint that just drains all the color and energy. What should have been a tongue-in-cheek Creature Feature starts off on a serious (and tedious) note, and the film never recovers enough to be mildly enjoyable.
The pacing of “Larva” is generally fast, although Cox once again drops the ball in a number of scenes by simply prolonging the film’s numerous stalk scenes. A sequence in a hospital where Ventresca and Forsythe’s gun happy character chases a parasite on the loose seems to take forever. Then there’s the Evil CEO’s stalk scene, which like the hospital sequence, seems to just keep going and going. No surprise, then, that there’s barely any real plotting to the film. The script seems to work so hard getting everything and everyone to the “parasites are on the loose” point in the film that once they get there, every scene seems to be nothing more than padding.
Like most moderately budgeted Creature Feature film, “Larva” could have been fun if made with the right frame of mind. The film starts off on the wrong foot, and never really manages to gain any momentum. The creature effects are your usual brand of Sci Fi Channel special effects, which translates into shadowy CGI blurred by shadows and night. In any case, it’s probably a good thing the creatures are kept in the shadows and nighttime scenes for much of the movie, as the mere thought of parasites turning into flying bats with wings and claws sounds ridiculous enough, one would probably die laughing if you could actually see any of them.
Tim Cox (director)
CAST: Vincent Ventresca …. Dr. Eli Rudkus
William Forsythe …. Jacob Long
Rachel Hunter …. Hayley Anderson
David Selby …. Fletcher Odermatt