INFESTED – INVASION OF THE KILLER BUGS
Release year: 2002
WARNING: this review contains spoilers.
For a long time already, I’ve been a fan of bad horror movies. And I don’t mean bad as in all the sequels to Halloween or Friday The 13th bad. I don’t even mean bad as in Plan 9 From Outer Space bad. I mean something even worse. Cheap network TV horror flicks, even cheaper direct-to-DVD flicks, SyFy Channel level shit. That’s what I’m talking about: movies so bafflingly bad, amateurish, cheap and inconsistent you have a hard time believing anyone ever, at any point of production, believed in what they were making. But still a movie got done, and distributed. And it’s beautiful in its own demented way.
I first discovered my love for this genre, if it can be so called, with a movie called Infested. As such, it deserves to be the first movie we review in a new section called Don’t Cut The Crap – dedicated to only the worst in cinema. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the beautiful disaster that is Infested.
For the first ten or twenty minutes, Infested can fool you into believing it’s just another early noughties b-movie horror flick; not bad, but not good either. There were an abundance of these in the heyday of DVD and in the wake of the late 90’s and early noughties slasher horror trend. Infested doesn’t begin so horribly; at the outset, the actors even manage to deliver their lines semi-believably, and there’s some not-too-hopeless attempt at establishing the nature of each main character. The setup is cliché but not unworkable: a circle of old friends have a reunion at the funeral of one of their own, and afterwards gather to reminisce at the remote vacation home of some of the main characters. Old passions awaken as friendships are renewed, and a lot of triangle dramas are hinted at. Of course, none of these ever come to play in a meaningul way, as half of the cast are killed off in one fell swoop early on in the movie.
Any promise of a somewhat sensible, coherent b-movie are thrown in the bin at the 25 minute mark, when the horror (in so many ways!) begins.
To put it briefly, the concept of the movie is mutant killer flies. But that’s not all of it, not by a long shot. You see, instead of being flesh-eating or poisonous flies, these are flies that will invade a human body and turn their victims into some weird hybrid between possession and zombification. The infested, infected humans retain some cunningness – at least part of the time – but attack any uninfected people on sight, attempting to fill them with flies as well. Not only that, the infected are also almost indestructible, being able to survive beheading, impalement and other forms of violence. At least part of the time: there’s really no rhyme or reason in the movie as to what will finally kill a zombified fly-victim.
Fly-zombies sounds like a pretty cool idea, you say? Well, on paper. On film, it’s horribly clumsy and inconsistent. It’s hard to know where to begin to unravel this particular tangle of terror. Let’s start with one of the key elements of the plot: the flies are destroyed by bright light. This is one of the key methods by which the survivors are able to combat the flies, seeing them go up in clumsy CGI flashes. Except there’s absolutely no logic to when the flies get destroyed by light and when not. Sometimes they are able to survive however long in direct light, sometimes they are destroyed in seconds. It’s a plot device that’s used cheaply, randomly and sometimes even counterintuitively: there’s one scene where a character is trapped in a dark basement with a small slit of light coming from a small window. You’d think this character would try to get to the light – but no. He hides inside a big cardboard box, rescued only when another character with a couple of cans of insecticide kills the insects.
The cleverness of the infected is another of the wildly fluctuating things. Sometimes they stumble around like your average zombie, but at other times they have enough wits to disassemble cars. The most stupefyingly odd moment is towards the end, when the bee-zombies all of a sudden catch the dance fever: one particular song causes the infected to stop hunting humans and erratically wobble and/or stop and listen to the music. The characters theorize that it’s because the insects devour the brains of their victims, thus gain their knowledge, but that’s a half-assed theory at best. Knowledge is not the same as whatever pathetic nostalgia supposedly causes this involuntary reaction. The complete lack of coherence or plain common sense in writing these infected, infested zombies destroys any potential the concept might originally have had.
Of course, the dodginess and inconsistencty of the plot is not the only layer of crap on the cake that is Infested. The CGI, as already mentioned, is cheap and bad. The flies look like semi-decent early noughties computer graphics at best, but most of the time they look like smudgy blobs that move around superimposed on the real footage. Which is of course exactly what is happening. Explosions, fire and gore look even cheaper, going beyond low budget and camp to what can only be called complete shit.
And more: the continuity is messed up by wildly changing make-up, for example the amount and pattern of blood splatters on an actor’s face can change between scenes wildly. There’s one actor whose tan seems to darken and lighten a lot between shots. And so on. All pretty standard fare for this kind of no budget, no quality flicks, but of course very glaring flaws nonetheless.
And plotwise, it’s not just the infested zombies that are all over the place. When the survivors discover that the flies die from light, they prepare makeshift torches to keep the infected at bay. Sure, why not… but why not just burn the bastards while you’re at it? Why just wave the torches at the infected, instead of lighting them up? And when the bee-zombies are afraid of the fire, why not wave torches at them and help that one crippled character up and get him in the house? Instead, the other survivors toss him a bunch of ecstasy pills and leave him there, one or two metres away on a plain grass field, to die. And, when this character inevitably returns as an infected, infested bee-zombie, his broken leg is suddenly mended: he can walk as normally as your average bee-zombie. Not feeling pain is one thing, having a bone in your leg broken is the kind of mechanical damage that will impact movement regardless of whether you feel it or not.
Multiple times the characters also allude to evening coming soon, but it never comes for the majority of the movie. Until it’s suddenly pitch-black outside. Continuity problems here as well: the amount of daylight fluctuates wildly depending on the scene; sometimes it seems to be actually twilight, but then in the next scene it’s full daylight again.
And what is the reason for this zombie-fly plague? Well, turns out the dead friend mentioned at the beginning really hated his friends. Like really, really hated his friends: enough to unleash this government-doctored species of zombiefying fly upon mankind. Mystically, he appears – perfectly alive – towards the end of the movie, and spills his guts (proverbially, not literally): he wanted to kill his poseur friends and therefore faked his own death and unleashed the flies upon the world.
You’d think there’d be simpler ways to kill a bunch of yuppies.
This final, astoundingly anti-climactic revelation is a fine feces-cherry on the beautiful cake that is Infested: it renders whatever little of value remains from the shitfest before it absolutely null and void. Any mystery, any sense of suspense that might remain after an hour and a half of bad CGI, brainless plot and flat acting, vanishes instantly. The viewer just cannot help but throw his or her hands in the air and give up on pretending to give a fuck.
The cast and crew are, of course, for the most part, no-names. As is often the case with movies of this ilk, Infested has a small cameo by a name actor – in this case, Mark Margolis (the wheelchair guy from Breaking Bad and a general bad-ass in dozens of other movies) as a priest delivering the worst funeral sermon you’ve never heard. But not only that: they’ve got Zach Galligan (or, as you probably know him better, Billy Peltzer from the Gremlins movies) as one of the main characters. How high have the mighty fallen, that the lead actor from two of the greatest horror-comedies ever has stooped this low!
And truly, that is the final cherry on the cake, to watch a once-radiant actor star in a shitfest like this. To his credit, Galligan does seem to actually try to act, not just read his lines, but neither he nor the other actors manage to breathe life into this trainwreck of a movie. In fact, unlike in many other movies of this kind, the actors are the best part of the movie. Sure, they’re not great, but what’s remarkable is that they’re not bad! Whilst they do overact and come across as thoroughly amateurish from time to time, almost everyone still throws an acceptable performance. At least in comparison to everything else in this movie.
To conclude, Infested is a horrible movie. The basic plot outline is a nonsensical mash-up of a zombie flick and a wildlife-kills-humans flick; the action is dumb; the logic of the movie is both flawed and fucked; the CGI is lame; and, as mentioned oft enough, consistency is an unknown word. This is precisely the kind of movie, where it’s hard to believe anyone at any stage actually believed they had something worth releasing on their hands. Of course, the movie is directed by the same guy – Josh Olson – who also wrote the script, but it’s astounding that anyone else looked at the nonsensical script and figured “what the heck, let’s do this”.
And that’s what I love about this movie, and others of its ilk: there’s no redeeming value here. Nobody can call this a “diamond in the rough” or a “flawed gem” or even a decent idea with horrible implementation. Everything about this movie, from the concept to the plot to the filmography, is crap. The actors are the sole thing I can’t totally shit on; they’re not a redeeming aspect, but they’re the one part that doesn’t sink this movie further down the shit-filled drain.
Seeing is believing: if you don’t think a movie can be as bad as this, check it out yourself. The full movie is linked below. And believe it or not, I’ve got much worse in store for you.
Summary: It’s no wonder this is a movie about flies – everyone knows flies are attracted to shit.