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The very fact that “The Nest” is about cockroaches is probably enough to put off some viewers. If you are at all phobic about the thought of shiny, clicking insects swarming around your feet, then it’s probably best you forget all about this film and stop reading this review right now. “The Nest” is pure b-movie, through and through, an exploitation classic that will have genre fans howling and squirming with laughter and revulsion.
The film covers pretty much every nightmare scenario involving cockroaches imaginable, and is inventive enough to give even the hardiest viewer a fair few shudders. There is something inherently horrible about cockroaches, something that is quite simply wrong about the way they twitch their dark, gleaming bodies. Pretty much impervious to poison and insect spray, they seem to actively search us out for the sole purpose of crawling over our skin.
“The Nest” is a film well aware of the potential ick factor of cockroaches, and it takes full advantage of its cast of millions. This is definitely one of the best genre entries of the 1980’s, and far better than the dire CGI ‘nature runs amok’ films of recent years. The plot is standard creature feature stuff: the small island town of North Port is being overrun by flesh eating cockroaches. The evil insects start off by devouring the local pets before the inevitable graduation to the far sweeter taste of human flesh. As the inhabitants fight to survive, they must attempt to solve the riddle of the roaches’ mysterious mutations. Could the sinister gene-splicing Intec Corporation possibly be responsible?
I’m certain that all genre fans will have seen at least a handful of films with an almost identical plot, and in these terms, no one could ever accuse “The Nest” of being original. Where the inventiveness of the film shines through is in the details. Director Terence H. Winkless, who would later be responsible for the “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” TV series, is relentless, throwing in scene after scene of insect terror. The film is incredibly energetic and the pace never lets up. There is no real suspense generated, and Winkless blatantly relies upon the squirm factor for effectiveness, though this does not harm the proceedings at all. There is a great atmosphere of fun, and though the film is far from being a spoof, there are a few nice moments of tongue in cheek humor.
Any fan of the genre is likely to enjoy “The Nest” as an update of the old 50’s monster movie classics, with 80’s style gore and FX. It’s also interesting to note that the film’s plot does share some similarities with Guillermo Del Toro’s giant roach flick “Mimic”. As in that film, the stars of “The Nest” evolve the ability to impersonate other animals, albeit in a far less subtle manner. In truth, the films are similar in a number of ways, though for my money “The Nest” steals the cockroach crown, mainly on the sheer strength of its enthusiasm for delivering the shudders. One scene in particular springs to mind that pretty much sums up the film’s whole approach: a woman with a broken leg looks on with horror as the roaches swarm up her plaster cast.
The acting in the film is of a reasonable standard, and the cast manages to keep straight faces throughout. It pretty much goes without saying that none of the characters are particularly fleshed out, and the whole bunch are generally b-movie stereotypes. This is par for the course and is entirely forgivable. Exploitation film fans will recognize a few faces, most notably Robert Lansing, who has also had the misfortune to battle giant crabs (“Island Claws”) and giant ants (“Empire of the Ants”), and Lisa Langlois, who faced off against killer rats in “Deadly Eyes”. Younger viewers may also spot Diana Bellamy, who starred as the principal in the late 90’s high school TV series “Popular”.
Gore hounds will love “The Nest”. There are countless icky scenes of roaches eating people, burrowing in and out of bodies, and generally going on the rampage. The slaughter score is very high, and the deaths are both entertaining and inventive. The effects are also of a high standard, particularly during the last thirds of the film when the hideously mutated cockroach creatures start to crawl out of the shadows. All in all, this is not a film for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.
“The Nest” is a truly great film, a near-perfect 1980’s style update of the much loved creature feature genre. There is a great deal of insect action, and for those not averse to the sight of swarming, vicious cockroaches, there is a wildly entertaining ride ahead.
Terence H. Winkless (director) / Robert King (screenplay)
CAST: Robert Lansing …. Elias Johnson
Lisa Langlois …. Elizabeth Johnson
Franc Luz …. Richard Tarbell
Terri Treas …. Dr. Morgan Hubbard
Stephen Davies …. Homer