There is a trend in independent genre film making that revolves around creating a B-movie that mimics those B-movies of yesteryear, when I say mimic, I mean creating them so they appear to be movies from 50s and/or 60s. Filmmakers Larry Blamire and Christopher R. Mihm are at the forefront of this, but I generally don’t care for them. Having said that Blamire’s only flick I like is Trail Of The Screaming Forehead (2007), Mihm had one, The Giant Spider (2013), I desperately hoped would come off as a true homage, but where as it looked great, and I mean it was filmed in black and white and the 50s time period was mimicked to appear like one of those “Giant Bug Movies” from that era ala Earth Vs. The Spider (1958) and Tarantula (1955), the tone was a bit too comedic for my tastes. I have always maintained you can do a “modern-retro” genre flick and make it dead serious. The originals weren’t meant to be comedies, but I can understand, however, why they are spoofed. I grew up watching some of those golden age horror and science fiction flicks (no, I’m not that old. I’m in my mid-40s. I caught them on TV, not at the movies), and I loved a lot of them, so it pains me on occasion to see them primarily done as spoofs.
When it comes to Insectula! I heard about this movie many years ago. I think it was when I was first getting on Facebook in 2011. There was a trailer up and from what I saw it sure looked like a good attempt at making some kind of mid to late 60s horror/science fiction big bug mash up. Even though I really wasn’t all that interested in seeing it, I kept Insectula’s Facebook page on my radar for one main reason—the poster! It was one of the best I’ve seen in a long, long time. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear it was an ad for something straight out of the 50s for a long lost giant bug movie. It took years for Peterson to complete his flick and it was his numerous updates that probably helped pique my curiosity enough to want to revisit the trailer after he announced it was finally done and ready for to be owned on DVD.
In a nutshell what you’ve got here in the finished product is an homage to the big bug movies of the 50s done by way of a color 60s gore flick, with a dash of 21st century computer technology. It’s primary look is 60s low-budget genre cinema, but just when you think it’s going to be all that that’s when characters whip out cell phones and use computers in conjunction with their retro styled environment. At first it was a bit jarring. Of the scant movies I’ve seen in this category generally the filmmakers stay 100% with the retro environment, clothing and miscellaneous “tools and things” their characters handle. It wasn’t bad jarring, just unique jarring.
A quick mention of the CGI before I delve into the movie. I’ve mentioned this before in other reviews, but it bears mentioning yet again, I judge all low-budget CGI against those godawful SyFy channel creature features where the CGI critters (Sand Serpents notwithstanding oddly enough) move like primitive computer game renderings from the 80s. For me if the CGI beasts don’t measure up it taints the whole movie to the point where I’m pulled out. Obviously Insectula’s critters aren’t big-budget computer renderings but neither are they CGI SyFy crap. They moved realistically enough at the right points and were integrated well enough into the environment where it was, at least, aesthetically pleasing to my eyes. If they had not been, you simply would not be reading this review, for I would not have done one. But I had already had a somewhat positive vibe about the CGI from the trailer, all I needed was confirmation the quality wouldn’t waver throughout the film. It didn’t, it was pleasantly consistent.
With the CGI deemed to my liking all I wondered now was how much comedy did Peterson decide to put in. Not a lot. I mean, yeah, there’s comedy, but a lot comes not from banter, but just from things like a painfully obvious fake mustache, a painfully obvious wig in a flashback, odd acting choices/mannerisms made by the actors, making it all clear this is intended to be a bad movie, but an entertaining bad movie. In the end it fell into that category of “good-bad movie” and some of my favorite flicks are those. My top two are Equinox (1970) and The Strangeness (1987). So you can imagine how relieved I was when it was over and I decided it was going into my collection. If I can picture myself watching a movie I’m reviewing and/or seeing for the first time more than once, then it’s a keeper. Yes, I can see myself watching Insectula again in the future.
After an Ed Wood style opening where we get an actor setting us up for what we’re about to experience and a nice florid, retro opening credits we land on a “planet of monsters” and see how this alien mosquito gets to Earth, attracted to our planet by rising carbon dioxide in our atmosphere thanks to global warming. We’re then introduced to three of our main characters, EPA agent, Del Biondo (Pasquale Pilla), Del Biondo’s can’t-look-away-from-it-dead-caterpillar stache, and his main squeeze, Hanna (Hanna Hudson). This is clearly a May-December romance. Hanna breaks some disappointing news to Del saying the test was positive. She doesn’t elaborate, just goes off for a swim leaving Del saddened. I assume she was pregnant and neither wanted her to be. Anyhow, it’s all a moot point because she never comes back out of that lake alive. The alien mosquito crash lands into it and it munches on the first thing it finds, which just so happens to be some prime girl meat.
Our next players are German deviant/scientist, Dr. Heinrich Johann Kempler (Harrison Matthews), who explains to Del an alien creature is living in the lake, and his hot, assistant, Brittany Sax (Arielle Cezanne), who does not live in any kind of lake. Kempler is our human villain. He has a penchant for peeping on girls, occasionally kidnapping them and using their blood to feed an offspring of the creature he found in egg form on the beach one day. He’s helping the creature because he just thinks humans are bad for this planet, I can’t totally disagree with that, just maybe his methods on how to go about fixing it. He eventually acquires a Tor Johnson-esque henchman, Lobo (Joel Thingvall), who helps Sax escape then gets gunned down by the ol’ crazy doc.
Between understanding Kempler and the final act where the alien mosquito lays siege to the city in 50s Big Bug style, we watch poor Del cope with the death of his chick, and a second death of what may have been a second girlfriend, who also meets her end in the lake. I sympathized with Del and quite frankly envied him just a little bit in the ladies department. Del and his stache meet a not totally unexpected end when he ends the rampage of the creature by sacrificing himself and then blowing it up from the inside, the same ending given to the only SyFy channel movie with decent creature CGI, Sand Serpents (2009).
The only actor/actress I was familiar with already was Sarah French. She has a small part as a hooker, and I kept looking at her wondering why she looked so familiar. Hitting up her IMDB page I saw she was in Steve Session’s Shriek Of The Sasquatch (2011), which I had seen.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1.78:1 widescreen—2.0 English Stereo, 5.1 English Surround—English, Spanish, German, French subs.
Picture and audio were good.
- Audio commentary with Director/Writer Mike Peterson and Producer Danielle Cezanne
- Cut Scenes (4 scenes)
Things I learned from the commentary: This is Mike Peterson’s first movie; he had to teach himself CGI when he couldn’t find anyone to help him; producer Danielle Cezanne is his wife and actress, Arielle Cezanne, is their daughter; it took 4-5 years to complete the movie; filmed in Minnesota; apparently it’s freezing in Minnesota in August. Things I learned from a Facebook chat with Mike Peterson: he was watching one of those movies made by The Asylum and thought, I can do that, which is what spurred Insectula! into being.
You can buy Insectula! in two places: From Amazon and on Insectula’s official site, where you can also buy other Insectula merchandise, one of which is a poster of that magnificent DVD cover. The movie is available in DVD and on digital but no blu-ray. (UPDATE: Insectula is now out of print, but Director Mike Peterson is working on a new disc version. Stay tuned!)
As for the future of Mike Peterson’s career and Insectula, he tells me if he makes enough money from this flick, he’ll make a sequel. Now, let’s all help this man realize that dream.