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23rd Jun 09
A small town finds itself under attack from a swarm of wasps that have been sprayed by super pesticides.
Director Paul Ziller has a Z-movie career that stretches all the way from goofy comic-slasher Pledge Night through to superior latter-day revolt of nature flick Snakehead Terror (officially the best movie ever with the word “Snakehead“ in the title). Swarmed is a brisk, often unintentionally hilarious old-school entry in the same sub-genre as the latter - played with admirable sincerity and good for some amusing disposable entertainment.
Michael Shanks has been experimenting on creating a super-pesticide with the aid of wasps - experiments that inevitably wind up unleashing a whole bunch of deadly “yellow jackets” in possession of abnormally dangerous venom. The wasps promptly escape from their laboratory-prison and head to a small Indiana town in “the heartland of America”, a town famous for its barbeque sauce. Corrupt barbecue sauce businessman Tim Thomerson is in town for the imminent local “cook-off”, and this prominent event attracts the aggressive wasps. Maybe the wholly expected pretty local entomologist (Carol Alt, also in Snakehead Terror for the three people that care) will help?
This movie isn’t very good but at least it moves : every few minutes a fresh cloud of cartoonish CG killer wasps swoop in to kill off such disposable, familiar secondary characters as Fat Coroner Who Eats Junk Food Around Cadavers, Clumsy Janitor and Mayor Who Won’t Let Anything Stop The Big Tourist Event That’s About To Turn Intxo A Massacre From Happening (he gets fatally stung on the eyeball). Some of the dumb reactions of the local authorities as they step over a succession of wasp-victims are a joy to behold : we particularly love the police chief’s appropriation of a classic Jaws line : “This was not an allergy….”.
You’ve got to admire this flick’s Canadian cast for their manful efforts to maintain a straight face in the face of some career-killing dialogue. One character has to say “A man dies of a wasp sting while doing an autopsy on a man who died of a wasp sting. What are the odds on that?”. Nearly everyone at some point has to gamely flail their arms around in total panic, confident in the knowledge that they wont look too silly when someone superimposes some goofy CG wasps in post-production. (Bad news, guys, you look silly; Good news, not as silly as the wasps).
Plot-wise, it’s wholly obvious right up to the absolutely guessable final shot and there’s no one to sympathise with unless you really warm to the clichéd smart-mouthed black pest-exterminator or the geeky ginger teen who watches Decoys on TV in one sequence. This is, however, a movie of specific guilty pleasures, such as the loooong extended set piece in which a really, really stupid woman persistently tries to kill a solitary wasp with a shotgun. She attempts this, for a very long time, despite having the more sensible option of merely shutting a door and running away. Like you do if one of the bastards flies in to your bathroom while you’re scrubbing yourself.
It’s genre veteran Tim Thomerson, however, who effortlessly steals the show in one single scene. An underrated reliable mainstay of B movies ever since Trancers , (Signature line : “Dry hair is for squids!”), here he’s great as a dastardly capitalist climactically shown knocking a woman unconscious and pushing over a baby in its pram just to save his own ass. The Oscar campaign starts here…
1st Nov 04 Above all though, it is the relationship between John and Laura Baxter which is the film’s central focus throughout, and the gradual disintegration of their relationship amidst a haze of grief.