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1 review, 4 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Girls just don't respect guys who don't stand up to giant insects."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: You know how most monster movies start out in the country or suburbs with the nasty stuff reaching the city something to be avoided at all costs? "Infestation" starts after that's happened. After giving us a few minutes to meet Chris Marquette's Cooper, there's a piercing noise, and the next thing Cooper knows, he's emerging from some sort of cocoon, but everyone else in the Bangor, ME, area seems to be wrapped up tight.

Cooper unwraps his boss, Maureen (Deborah Geffner), who insists on seeing to nearby daughter Sarah (Brooke Nevin). Soon Sarah has gone and unwrapped a few more, including oversexed weathergirl Cindy (Kinsey Packard), father Albert (Wesley Thompson) and his deaf son Hugo (E. Quincy Sloan), Leechee (Linda Park), Roger (Bru Miller), and some more. They find the cocoons were made by giant bugs, and while the bugs are blind, they are intensely attracted to sound. Cooper suggests that they make for his father's house in nearby Berwick - Ethan (Ray Wise) is ex-military and has a well-stocked fallout shelter - although everyone wants to check in on their families, and some want to follow the insects back to the tower of smoke where one of their party has been taken.

Though writer/director Kyle Rankin is likely best known for Project Greenlight and The Battle of Shaker Heights, he and collaborator Efram Potelle were making oddball shorts and features both before and after that. This time, the credits have Rankin writing and directing solo while Potelle serves in a number of technical roles - producer, second unit director, effects supervisor - and it seems like a good division of labor. Rankin stages the action well, and creates some nice moments for the actors to work with.

Potelle handles the visual effects, and those are actually pretty impressive, for a low-budget film likely to bypass theaters for basic cable and video. It appears that the filmmakers opted to use practical effects for the bulk of the giant bug scenes, so when Marquette is wrestling with one, it actually looks like he's struggling rather than pantomiming combat and hoping the digital guys make it look believable. Flyers are decent CGI, though mostly seen in the distance. There's plenty of enjoyable gross-out scenes, with the fluids tending toward goopy alien insect interiors than red human blood.

Rankin never makes a joke out of his giant bugs, but he takes a bit of an off-kilter approach; Cooper is a slacker who at times seems more interested in hitting on Sarah (and fending off Cindy!) than figuring out what the heck is going on with the whole invasion thing. There's a lot of nervous comedy as folks who really aren't qualified to save the world try to handle the situation, but Infestation never has the feel of parody (at least, not until one cruelly and deliciously blue-balling moment at the very end). Rankin does a pretty nice job of giving his characters human reactions to an apocalyptic event without turning Infestation into a reflective drama with a sci-fi backdrop rather than a giant bug movie.

The cast we're introduced to in the beginning is a decent enough roster for this sort of film: Marquette is the early standout, running at the mouth and kind of inappropriate, but kind of endearing. Brooke Nevin is nice as the girl who's kind of annoyed by him but not enough so to slap him down, and Kinsey Packard handles a role that could just be the self-absorbed pretty girl well. Thompson and Sloan are a really nice pair, Thompson a somewhat frail-looking older guy who maybe has more guts than anyone else in the group, and Sloan, though a big guy, making Hugo an innocent mainly through body language. The secret weapon, however, is Ray Wise, who shows up halfway through the movie and injects a lot of humor as Cooper's disappointed father. Wise has been a Rankin/Potelle regular since they were making shorts in Portland, ME, and Rankin knows just how to use him to punch the last half up, while Wise does a nice supporting job, not pushing Marquette and company off the screen even though he's a bigger personality than most of them.

"Infestation" has a few issues; there are some odd jumps in the story, for instance. It's a generally enjoyable giant bug movie, though one more likely to be an unusually good Sci-Fi movie of the week than a sleeper hit at the box office.

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originally posted: 07/13/09 00:01:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/25/10 scott my my thoughts are that hugo just got them with the ' made you look game ' or left open 4 stars
1/05/10 David Might have been my rental copy but the ending cut out suddenly after hugo said look 3 stars
11/11/09 Corky Fast-paced, funny and creepy... loved it! 4 stars
8/09/09 Grace It would have been a much better movie if we could have seen what they saw at the end. 3 stars
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Directed by
  Kyle Rankin

Written by
  Kyle Rankin

  Christopher Marquette
  Brooke Nevin
  Ray Wise
  Linda Park

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