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Millennium Bug, The
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by Jay Seaver

"As one might expect, a 2011 "millennium bug" movie is behind the times."
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: Certain audience members will cheer big when the "No CGI Films" logo comes up at the start of "The Millennium Bug", and there's no denying that it's thoroughly old-school in its production (you sort of have to be old-school to do a "millennium bug" story eleven years after the fact). As much as the filmmakers do some decent work with their practical effects at times, the rest of the movie is terrible - and the bug's not that great, either.

It's the last day of 1999, and the Haskin family - father Byron (Jon Briddell), daughter Clarissa (Christine Haeberman), and new stepmother Joany (Jessica Simons) - is heading to a California ghost town to ride out the expected chaos to be caused by the Y2K bug. Of course, they don't expect their campsite to be set upon by Billa Crawford (John Charles Meyer) and other members of his inbred redneck clan, and neither group figures on the thing that cryptozoologist Roger Patterson (Ken MacFarlane) is investigating in the woods.

People often talk about how CGI looks less real than model work, but I suspect that much of that is confirmation bias. The practical work in movies like The Millennium Bug looks fake, too, just in different ways: Though the matte work is better than drive-in monster movies of which this film is a direct descendant, there's still the sense that the person screaming in the foreground isn't in the same reality as the giant insect behind her. Items may have weight but they are limited by the flexibility of human puppeteers. Everything is shot on a soundstage, and the way dark and fog are used to attempt to hide this is itself something a savvy viewer picks up on. The result is certainly capable-looking, with the gore and other make-up effects done fairly well too, but not quite to the level where the crew surprises the audience with what they can do.

The acting, meanwhile, is terrible. To be fair, the lines that the cast is given are well on the stupid side, and "inbred rednecks" isn't exactly a recipe for subtle, nuanced performances, but moments that don't feel like people playing dress-up are few and far between. Even a conventionally bad actor just seems dull or out of place; these guys are worse. Their earnest attempts to portray a character look too much like people trying to act and failing, rather than just people acting badly.

Again, they're getting no help from writer/director Kenneth Cran. You don't have to do a lot to motivate characters in a horror movie, and yet a great deal of The Millennium Bug feels forced or fantastically tone-deaf. Chan has a terrible time merging the throwback-style elements with the more modern ones, and the dissonance is often a real problem: You can play certain things broadly and still have evil rednecks come off as black, black comedy, but constant threats of sexual assault tend to be one step too far.

It's possible to inject that sort of modern edge into that sort of old-school fantasy, but it takes a more experienced and talented set of filmmakers than this crew to do it. Maybe Cran and his crew will become that someday, but "The Millennium Bug" is an amateurish mess in nearly every way.

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originally posted: 02/13/12 15:45:03
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2012 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

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  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 18-Dec-2012



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