Released by: First Look Studios
Released on: October 13, 2009 Director: Kyle Rankin
Cast: Chris Marquette, Brooke Nevin, Kinsey Packard, E. Quincy Sloan, Wesley Thompson, Ray Wise
Year: 2009 Purchase From Amazon
Infestation isn’t original. In fact, it’s basically Aliens except its set on Earth and instead of aliens people have to contend with giant bugs. And instead of Sigourney Weaver we get…. Ray Wise? That might not sound like such a good idea on paper, but Infestation, surprisingly enough, works really well as it’s smart enough to not take itself so seriously.
The plot revolves around a twenty-something slacker type named Cooper (Chris Marquette) who is just about to be lose his job at the call center where he works when, just as his boss is going to lay down the hammer, black out. And so does everyone else. He wakes up wrapped in a cocoon of sorts and proceeds to wander around the office where he sees everyone else in the same shape he found himself in. He wakes up his boss who wants to get her daughter in from outside where she was waiting, but a giant bug swoops in and carries the poor woman off. He saves the daughter, Sara (Brooke Nevin), at least, and the two of them join up with a TV weather lady and an aging janitor and his dim son.
Not sure what to do, they eventually head out and battle bugs until they wind up at the home of Cooper’s dad, an ex-army man (Ray Wise) who has nothing but criticism to offer his son in spite of the impending disaster posed by the bugs. When Sara decides to head to the hive, the bugs’ home base, in hopes of finding her mother and is eventually carried off herself, Cooper ‘mans up’ and decides that it’s time to do the right thing and go in after her…
So yeah, originality be damned, Infestation isn’t aiming for anything other than providing a good time at the movies. The effects are heavy on the digital side and that does screw things up here and there but aside from that this movie is a kick. It might drag a little bit at the beginning but by the time you even really notice that it has hit its stride and once it does the film piles on enough creature feature mayhem to work. The characters are all shallow, the picture rips off Aliens more than once (and borrows from both The Fly and Carpenter’s version of The Thing), but damn it, its infectious enough that you can’t help but want to keep going along for the ride until it’s over.
Marquette does fine in the lead, he’s a smart ass and at times a bit obnoxious but it works in the context of the film and most of the time his humor works. His interactions with Nevin’s Sara are amusing as well, their back and forth is fairly well written and despite the fact that she never appears in the skimpy outfit she’s wearing on the cover art, you can see why he’d be attracted to her and at the same time you can see how he’d grow on her. The rest of the characters are stereotypes, including Ray Wise’s curmudgeonly father, though in Wise’s defense he’s perfect in the part and steals every scene he appears in.
Once you look past the sheer lack of originality and the CGI effects, it’s easy to enjoy Infestation. It’s got a fun retro monster movie vibe to it and it’s entertaining as hell.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is clean and free of any debris but it’s far from perfect. The picture is interlaced and while the film makes use of a pretty grim color scheme for much of its running time, the color reproduction here seemed a bit too flat. That said, detail levels aren’t bad and skin tones look realistic enough. Some of the darker scenes are a bit too murky, but it’s hard to tell if this was done on purpose or not as it never looks like a compression related issue but rather the way that the film was lit.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix on the disc is pretty decent even if it’s maybe not as aggressive or active in some scenes as it could have been. Surround usage is pretty strong during the bug attack scenes and there’s some decent bass response when gun shots go off. Dialogue is clean and clear, there are no problems with hiss or distortion and the levels are all properly balanced.
The only extra of any substance is a commentary track that comes courtesy of writer/director Kyle Rankin who provides a dissection of his film that is equal parts insightful and brutally honest. Rankin talks quite frankly about what he feels works and doesn’t work as he talks about how this project came to be, what it was like shooting in Bulgaria and the pros and cons that this entails, casting the picture, effects work and more. It’s a strong talk that actually helps you appreciate the picture just a little bit more.
Aside from that, look for trailers for a few other First Look Studios releases, menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
While it might not win any points for originality, Infestation turned out to be a whole lot of fun thanks to a solid script and some strong performances. It’s a film that has no false pretenses about what it wants to be, and it comes recommended to anyone who enjoys a good giant bug movie!