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Infestation
cast: Chris Marquette, Brooke Nevin, Wesley Thompson, Ray Wise, and Linda Park

writer and director: Kyle Rankin

89 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Icon DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Mark West
SPOILER ALERT!
A real hark-back to the creatures-run-amok movies of old, this opens with Cooper (Chris Marquette), a slacker who has just lost his mother and been found a job by his father Ethan (Ray Wise), going to work... He doesn't like the job and is just about to get fired when there's a big flash and a noise and everyone is knocked out for several days. He wakes up, covered in webbing and has to fight off a huge bug in the office (much more fun to watch than it sounds). Waking up several other people around him, a core group is soon made that decides to head out to Ethan's house. Along the way, people are picked off by flying bugs or - in a genius move that's quite a clever, shocking image - become a spider/ human hybrid. The daughter of his boss - Sara (Brooke Nevin) - is taken by the bugs to a giant nest (its location obvious by noxious clouds - that are flammable, we discover - of the bugs' excretions) and Cooper takes it upon himself to get her back.

Right from the off, this film hits the right note and keeps it, pretty much pitch perfect, throughout the film. It also takes the smart option of not explaining either what the bugs are - sometimes they look like dung beetles, sometimes like spiders - or where they came from. I liked that. The characters, whilst often being amusing, act as you'd imagine most people would if placed in the same circumstances - which isn't to say it's realistic, just that nobody does anything where you scream at the telly and tell them not to go in there. Whilst there is gore - most of it handled very well - I found the most disturbing scene was an homage to Donald Sutherland in the 1978 Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, with a child hybrid in the nest.

The film has a quick pace that never really stalls - even in the quieter moments and there are several of these sequences which carry a lot of depth to them. The key one, for me, was when Cindy (Kinsey Packard) uses the only thing she knows works (i.e. her body), to find herself a new protector after her brother is discovered to be one of the hybrids. There's also a very nice, understated conversation in the kitchen between Sara, and Al (Wesley Thompson), where he asks her assurance that she'd look after his deaf son Hugo (E. Quincy Sloan), should anything happen to him.

The acting, across the board, is well above average for this kind of thing and the effects - apart from a couple of iffy matte shots - are well done. Also, what's nice in this day and age, is that the practical effects people are credited separately from the CGI people - and their effects are nicely blended together. The locations - I assume it was filmed in Bulgaria, judging by the surnames in the credits - are well-used and generic enough that you think it's set in America but it could probably be anywhere.

The script is witty, with some very funny one-liners ("me, my dog, my woman and a muscle car," being one particular highlight), and there's a wonderful scene where Sara calls Cooper solipsistic. He looks it up in a dictionary a little later and then uses the word on his dad, later still.

My one issue - shared with my wife, who watched Infestation with me - was with the ending. I have an assumption as to what happened, which is different to hers, but I was waiting for a coda that never came. It didn't particularly spoil my enjoyment, but she said she'd have knocked a point of the rating for it.

I enjoyed this - it was brisk and well made, it was entertaining and gripping and it was a lot of fun. Come on, what more could you ask for from a giant-bugs movie? Recommended... There were no extras on my screener copy.
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