Infestation is the latest contestant in the game of horror and comedy hybrid films. While this isn’t a particularly new niche, I feel it would be safe to say that sometime in the mid early to mid 00’s, around the same time Shaun of the Dead began slaying audiences, there has been new life shot into the sub-genre, with results that vary from inspired to shameless (I’ll let you decide which movies go in which category there). Instead of zombies, Infestation uses giant bugs as the threat to mankind, and follows a small and quirky bunch of survivors as they awake from their cocoons and devise a plan to dispatch of their unwelcome guests. It isn’t rocket science, and the film wastes little with arguing about where or how these things came to be. Instead, they plunge us into situational comedy, smart ass remarks, and insectoid action. What gives it its charm is the witty dialogue, blitzkrieg pace, and a cast of general unknowns who are very amicable. Infestation isn’t a movie that will break boundaries or rewrite the rules of the horror/comedy cinematic relationship, but it should entertain you for the entirety of the 90 minute run time, and give you a few good chuckles and satisfaction along the way.
Writer and director Kyle Rankin has put to good use the set of precedents laid before him for a majority of the last decade. As mentioned before, Shaun of the Dead deserves a nod here, and some of the style that made that such a hit is certainly evident in Infestation. Maybe a bigger nod should go to Slither however, which is more in line with its sci-fi tinge to its narrative and the brisk pace which doesn’t involve itself to heavily around elements taken from romantic comedies. Infestation isn’t without its romance subplot but there is also a suitably warm message about family in there, as well as being yourself in the face of a society that demands, quietly, that you conform to its standards or suffer the consequences. Kyle Rankin reigns in these thoughts and notions, but never allows them to run over the comedy and the action, which are his primary concerns, and rightfully so. His writing is snappy and quick, and its obvious he knows how to make an audience like or hate a character quickly. Without spoiling some of the small surprises, there are also character traits and…lack of abilities, shall we say, that are not only interesting, but of vital importance down the road. You’ll know when I’m talking about here when you see it. As far as his directing goes, the highest compliment I can pay the man is that he doesn’t pussy-foot around or pad time with scenes that only slow a piece down. His lighting is bright, as 90% of the film takes place during the day (which is a nice departure from the norm I must say) and he does his best to hide the so-so cgi from being a total eyesore and distraction. My usual concerns over CGI apply here, as they always do, but I can’t really fault the man since the flick looks like it was made for around or under 10 million (just a guesstimate) and in order to capture some of the scope of his “invasion”, there was probably no way to do it practically and keep the budget tight. Rankins keeps his camera on his talent most of the time, giving us glimpes of the bugs along with actors in the shot. It is a simple move, but it helps create a smidgen of believability and keeps us from having our complete attention drawn to the ho-hum computer graphics.
With the lens being pointing at the humans most of the time, it’s my pleasure to tell you that the actors do much more than hold their own. Chris Marquette (Alpha Dog, The Girl Next Door) and Brooke Nevin (I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer) lead the pack as our two main interests and fill in the role of attractive 20 somethings whose battle of wits and budding romantic tension perfectly. Almost everyone in this movie has a few good smarmy lines, but these two get to do a bulk of the shit talking, mostly between one another. We get unlikely heroes and nice little twists involving pre-invasion time frame which our characters had forgotten due to yet another clever power the bugs have, but to cut back to Rankin for a second, he manages to squeeze a lot of these actors, and it shows. There are moments where our survivors must make tough decisions thanks to some nice little swerves and twists in the plot, and the handling of these diversions is often just as pivotal as the twist itself. Thankfully, it all makes sense, characters don’t sacrifice who they are or what their persona’s are about just to please the script, and for those characters with an evolution their progression makes total sense. I can’t really say too much more without giving some of the fun away of seeing it for yourself, so I’ll move onto wrapping this review up for y’all. =)
Perched somewhere between too good for a sci-fi channel Saturday night movie premiere and not quite good enough to really make a killing at the box office, Infestation seems like one of those happy little exceptions to the rule when it comes to straight-to-dvd genre releases (they usually suck balls). It’s quick, not very emotionally taxing, has a GREAT ending (and hell no I am not going to ruin that for ya) and is always funny, action-packed, or both. In a year that has been seeing sci-fi cinema rule the roost (Star Trek, District 9, etc), it’s nice to see a smaller film pop up that, I think, has the charm and ingenuity to be quite successful, and hopefully land Writer/Director Kyle Rankin some larger, more ambitious work. Smart, snappy, and dare I even say cute in places, Infestation has all the qualities to get under your skin in a big way. No need for an exterminator here (shit, did I already make that joke?).