Infestation (2009)

Dir: Kyle Rankin

Call Centre employee Cooper (Christopher Marquette) is about to be fired when a shrill noise blasts him and his boss and everyone passes out.
He wakes up to find himself, and everyone else, covered in webbing, which he pulls off himself just as a giant bug scuttles towards him!

After fighting off the mysterious killer beetle a dazed and confused Cooper joins up with a ragtag group of survivors, including his boss’ daughter Sara (Brooke Nevin), Albert (Wesley Thompson) and his deaf son Hugo (E. Quincy Sloan) and a ditzy blonde named Cindy (Kinsey Packard).

Cooper suggests (after they discover the bugs are blind and need noise to find their prey) they carefully make their way through the bug infested city to get to his ex-Army Dad’s house (Ray Wise) as it has a fall-out bunker.

And so the dangerous trek begins….

Sadly, despite some good word of mouth, this was not the great ride I thought it was going to be.
The movie gets off to a very fast (though needlessly interrupted thanks to the opening shot) start as we get straight down to the ‘bug action’ in what is basically a (sadly rather small scale looking, due to the budget) version of "Dawn of the Dead" with beetles.

Despite this 'getting down to business' start the film does take long and numerous downtime breaks to have the less than thrilling characters less than thrillingly waffle on about their less than thrilling lives and actually, despite the fast start, the action scenes are spaced quite far apart and not really that interesting or thrilling despite a lot of energy being put into them.
The FX used during the attacks are pretty good though with only a few of the many CGI shots looking bad.
But while death and violence is minimal (as is bloodshed) lots of cliché characters sitting around arguing (or walking along as suddenly the ’no sound’ rule gets forgotten) is at a max while loud false scares are frequent and will only surprise those of a generally nervous disposition anyway.

The screenplay nicely leaves any explanation out as to how the bugs arrived and this air of confusion and helplessness works well, but the lack of any kind of knowledge at all on the size and scale of the bug infestation is frustrating.
As is the weak character interaction, that plays up the old ‘at first they don’t get on and then they warm to each other’ chestnut between Cooper and Sara but without any chemistry between then, and the often jokey dialogue is tired and only marginally amusing.
A hybrid creature sub-plot helps things along though and perhaps the best humour, the best drama (and a pretty good revelation) is supplied by this aspect of the plot.

Things also pick up with the late introduction of the ever welcome Ray "Twin Peaks" Wise who gives it his all and there is a general air of 'fun' about the project, but some of the more serious dramatic parts really don't mix well with the generally comic tone.
An uncomfortable, actually rather drmatically serious, topless attempted seduction scene involving an increasingly unhinged Cindy is the best example of this.

And then we have the biggest problem...The end!
I know we live in a time where film makers think that a sudden, movie destroying, 'twist' has to rear its inbred head far too often but "Infestation" has perhaps the least satisfying, utterly meaningless, finale I think I have ever seen.
It's wrong to really call it a twist, it's just film ran out of the camera moment that literally leaves you with no idea at all...about what just happened or is about to happen.
It could be a big bad nasty twist, or a happy ending or the Producers suddenly breaking onto the set to close things down.
You literally have no end.
Not happy, not downbeat, just nothing.

So what we are left with is a generally fun, generally well staged, generally well acted creature feature but with a lethargic screenplay, ho hum direction, dull cliché, little ick factor (unless you have a toothpaste phobia), so-so FX, seen it all before action and a lousy ending.

The fact...and I do mean is that this wants to reach the majestic heights of "Tremors", the film that every single light hearted monster romp will be forever judged, but it fails in most of the ways where "Tremors" beautifully succeeds, especially in it’s superb mixture of horror and fun and wonderful interaction and chemistry between the actors/characters.
The similar ‘opposites attract romance’ in “Infestation” is a pale shadow indeed, for example, compared to the one seen in “Tremors” between Kevin Bacon and Rhonda LeBeck and there is certainly no warm character friendships like the memorable Val and Earle one on “Tremors”.
Only the excellent (and again something that succeeds in the way "Infestation" does not, including the meshing together of the odd serious moment and the comedy) "Deep Rising" came close to having any chance of usurping "Tremors" from its throne and sadly, despite obvious heart in the right place work from writer/director Kyle Rankin, "Infestation" has no chance of siezing the crown.