Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Infestation
” I’m a student… of Shiatsu massage”
Jarv’s Rating: 2.5 Changs out of 4. Most Enjoyable.
After the pain and suffering inflicted on me by that talentless sack of cocks Fulci’s The Black Cat on Sunday, I decided that I needed a break from watching complete shit. So I rewatched this little gem from 2009.
It’s funny, but I held off reviewing this at the time, because learned scribe Echo the Bunnyman reviewed it elsewhere and my semi-coherent ranting pales in comparison to his proper critical prose. But I feel that enough time has passed for me to share my thoughts with the class.
Jonah, in his infinite wisdom, described Infestation as survival horror, and it’s very hard to argue with that tag. There is certainly a post apocalyptic feel to the film. It’s essentially about a group of rag tag survivors fending off a gross and unpleasant alien (I know they’re aliens because I watched the making of- they don’t tell you in the film) attack on their town.
Cooper, a slimy underachieving douchebag, is having a frankly terrible day at work. He’s just been fired, when an ear splitting noise renders him unconscious. While unconscious he’s being repeatedly sedated by an insect type thingy, but somehow it misses its hold and fails to insert the proboscis into the right area- thus allowing Cooper to wake up.
His first port of call upon awakening is to rouse his boss (lord alone knows why- she just fired him. I’d have left the bitch) and other survivors. Gradually they assemble a group and make a trek across town (where various bad things happen to them) because Cooper’s father is a Burt Gummer style survivalist nut job. Eventually Cooper has to make a decision and, astoundingly, chooses the heroic option which entails killing all the alien insectoids, saving the woman and the world.
So far so mundane, this really could be any one of a number of horror films (just sub in zombies, or whatever). However, it’s far superior to most of the herd. To begin with, it rips along at a cracking pace, and manages to maintain the pace to the end- they really don’t fuck around. Secondly, the characters, while clichéd as fuck are all reasonably well rounded, and fitting for their roles. They don’t get a lot of screen time before getting fucked up, but they did spend a surprising amount of time establishing the roles they wanted each type to be. However, what I really like about the characters is that the mystery is clearly “where the fuck did these damned things come from” and they never bother trying to find out- all they’re concerned with is saving their own necks (or getting high and laid).
The script is also good- it gives out the obligatory knowing winks to other horror films (including quoting verbatim Hannibal Lector’s “all the way to the F.B.I” speech), but has plenty of good lines for the characters to toss around, and the alien design is generic but effective, even if someone has seen Starship Troopers far too many times to be healthy. They weren’t overburdened by a budget (it was filmed in somewhere daft like Bulgaria), but manage to squeeze every drop of their limited resources onto the screen. It looks effective, and they never attempt to either mask a crappy effect or to pull out when they don’t think they can do something. Instead, they make sure that the effects are competent rather than spectacular, and as such the film feels polished and professional. I like this approach- especially as they were ballsy enough just to plonk the monsters fully lit on screen from word go.
The acting is generally OK. Chris Marquette as Cooper gives a kind of perennially stoned slacker performance which fits the material, but the star of the show is clearly Ray Wise. His lunatic poodle-obsessed survivalist has a manic energy and deep enough psychosis to give the film its second wind. Just when it was starting to drag, up he pops with a gleefully badass line or two, and his dealings with Marquette are frequently hilarious.
Infestation was clearly made by people that know B-movies backwards, and understand that when you are dealing with something as essentially goofy as Alien insects bastards with the power to zombify people from the planet whatever, then you may as well make sure it’s entertaining. There’s many a sly reference to other things, and it clearly wants to be smarter than it is, but at the end of the day they just make damned sure that it remains a fun ride- and who wants more from a film like this?
Infestation is obviously not perfect; some of the character decisions in particular are beyond annoying. I hate this- when you have to have the characters do something completely cretinous to drive the plot forward (in this case to force Cooper to do the right thing), I frequently groan, reach for another beer and consign the film to being terminal crap. However, having said all that, they are smart enough to recognise that they are making a B-movie, and so they don’t dwell on it. The pace is fast enough that they can whip on and the annoyance passes.
Overall, would I recommend it? Yes, to be honest. It’s not perfect, but it’s entertaining enough. It isn’t ever awesome, but it’s extremely competent, reasonably amusing and a perfectly harmless way to spend a few hours. It doesn’t redefine any genre that it dabbles in, but it does have a certain charm and it is certainly one that I don’t regret watching.
Until next time,
Oh, and to read Jonah’s vastly more coherent review that I did borrow from click here