Infestation (2009)

Rating: B

Dir: Kyle Rankin
Star: Chris Marquette, E. Quincy Sloan, Brooke Nevin, Ray Wise

While getting fired from his call-center job, Cooper (Marquette) is knocked unconscious by a high-pitched sound. When he wakes, he finds himself apparently trapped in some kind of cocoon, and giant beetles rampaging around the office. After struggling out, he frees some others, including his boss’s daughter (Nevin), and tries to figure out what’s going on. Seems Earth has been invaded by a host of giant insects, who are now abducting some people and taking them to their hive, and turning others into bizarre human-insect crossbreeds. Knowing his ex-military father (Wise) has a survival shelter, Cooper convinces the survivors it’s their best hope for survival, and leads them through the dangerous landscape towards their destination. However, on the way, things don’t go quite as planned, and Cooper is forced to face some difficult facts about himself, as well as the nasty, multi-legged enemies.

After enduring a series of dull giant insect SyFy movies, our hopes for this were muted at best. Fortunately, it surpassed virtually all expectations, being smart, witty and with some original twists, as well as a nice combination of CGI and practical effects, which are used effectively. The characters, while to some extent the usual mix of stereotypes, e.g. bimbo, asshole, are generally interesting, and Cooper has a nice arc to take him from obnoxious to heroic. The dialogue is excellent, not least for Wise, who comes close to stealing the film, despite not showing up for the first hour, and the imagination on view led to one laugh out-loud moment for me, stemming at least partly from my shared dis-taste for little, yappy dogs. If falling short of both its most obvious influences (Shaun and Tremors), it gets a damn sight closer than most horror-comedies. It maintains a high level of entertainment, right up to an ending which, while it could be seen as a cop-out, felt more like a delicious tease. Well played, Mr. Rankin: well played.