Larva (2005)

Starring Vincent Ventresca, William Forsythe, Rachel Hunter, and David Selby

Directed by Tim Cox

Written by the Generitron Automated Screenwriting Program

I wanted to like this movie. I really did. But I didn’t and know exactly why I didn’t. Larva is as generic a b-movie as I’ve ever seen. Every single aspect of this movie has been preprogrammed to the point of tedium. It follows every single cliché without skipping a beat or bothering to introduce something new or at the very least imaginative to the scenario. The set-up for the premise is pretty much where the creativity ceased.

Vincent Ventresca is the new veterinarian in the laidback farming community of Host, Missouri. The backbone of Host’s economy is raising cattle for the local meat-processing conglomerate Host Tender Meats. The company is currently testing a new experimental feed on the local livestock that’s designed to make their meat healthier for consumption. Local cattleman William Forsythe calls the vet out to his farm to check on a few of his cows that are behaving strangely. Soon he uncovers a strange mutant parasite inside the cows that have been eating the experimental feed. His attempt to warn the farming community is thwarted by the evil corporate honcho of Host Tender Meats and his legal council, the terribly miscast Rachel Hunter, who looks like she must have graduated from Harvard Law & Beauty College.

Still determined, the new vet and the local cattleman team up to produce conclusive proof that the experimental feed is causing the mutation and soon large, winged, blood-sucking creatures begin erupting from both the cattle and the human hosts that have consumed some of the new genetically altered meat.

All the while, the corporate evildoer attempts to cover his tracks and enlists the local sheriff to help run interference on his behalf, primarily by completely dismissing seemingly hundreds of phone calls from the townsfolk about mysterious flying creatures on the rampage as being just a pile of cow manure.

Folks, let’s go over the checklist of clichés real quick.

Lead character uncovers that something strange is going on and sets out to save the day. CHECK!

Lead character has his credibility questioned by the bad guys. CHECK!

Only person that believes lead character is the town crank. CHECK!

Bad guy attempts to cover his tracks before anyone discovers he’s at fault. CHECK!

Person working for the bad guy realizes the truth and helps the lead character save the day. CHECK!

The creatures spawn by gestating inside of someone or something before erupting from their body cavity. CHECK!

Young couple falls victims in the midst of a potential sex scene. CHECK!

Law enforcement character is in the pocket of the bad guy and aids him in covering up the problem. CHECK!

Law enforcement character aiding the bad guy in covering up the problem has lead character arrested on trumped up charges in order to prevent him from further investigation. CHECK!

Henchman for the bad guy has a change of heart and eventually dies in the course of helping to save the day. CHECK!

Bad guy killed by his own monstrous creation. CHECK!

Trap set to lure all the monsters to one place and blow them to kingdom come. CHECK!

I’ll just stop there since I’ve already covered the main plot clichés and, take my word for it, there are many more on display here. In fact, the movie is so formulaic that just about everything happens right on cue except for a few scenes that almost happen at random just because the formula requires that they take place somewhere along the way.

Alas, Larva is yet another movie written by the Generitron Automated Screenwriting Program (G.A.S.P.). Most in Hollywood would have you believe that G.A.S.P. is nothing more than an urban legend, but in reality it exists as Hollywood’s dirty secret. It’s rumored that G.A.S.P. was commissioned by some major Hollywood producers back in the 80’s in order to eliminate the human element from screenwriting and simply make things more convenient for them to produce movies using tried and true formulas. Producers would come up with an idea, feed it into the program, and out pops a freshly written script using the most basic film formula that most closely fits the concept inserted. Sometimes producers would take the pregenerated script and give it to an actual script doctor to punch it up by adding some snappy dialogue or visual pizzazz. This would also give them a name to credit the screenplay to in order to help maintain the secret of G.A.S.P.’s existence. In the case of Larva, it seems they just went ahead and produced the movie just as G.A.S.P. wrote it.

Like I said a moment ago, I really wanted to like this movie. I loved the concept of genetically altered meat producing killer parasitic creatures that terrorize a farming community. That scenario had the potential for a great amount of Critters style fun and even some social commentary. Larva fails to capitalize on any of it. To call this movie “by the numbers” or “run of the mill” doesn’t do justice to just how formulaic it is.

Making a movie this predictable would be acceptable if not for the complete lack of suspense or energy. There’s no spark to this material and there’s really nothing the director is able to do give it life. Since there is no suspense and no sense of fun things just become dull. You can already figure out every single thing that is going happen well in advance.

Even the music score is telegraphed so that you know exactly what’s about to happen. The music is starting to ominously swell up as he reaches out into the murky water for that hat. I wonder if that means something bad is about to happen to him? Hmmm…

The characters themselves are all devoid of any actual personality unless you count accents, and I don’t. They exist solely to fill the role required of them in the movie. While the acting is perfectly fine, I kind of got the impression that most of the actors realized they weren’t really playing characters but just filling in roles.

The only thing unpredictable about the movie is the pacing, as it will be moving along for awhile and then suddenly it will just slow to a crawl before picking back up again. One scene in particular with Ventresca and Forsythe roaming around the bottom floor of a hospital searching for one of the creatures feels as if it goes on forever.

Even the film’s title is generic and unless I missed it I don’t recall the word “larva” ever being uttered once in the entire movie. They use the word “parasite” a lot. You got people and animals being infected with parasites and bat-like horseshoe crab creatures bursting out of them throughout the movie but never once did I hear the film’s title spoken.

There is one clever scene I do give them credit for. You see a shot of tree branch set against the backdrop of the moon. One of the creatures is shown crawling along the branch followed by the hooting of an owl. The creature pounces, you hear the owl screech in mid-hoot, and feathers go flying from off-camera. This movie needed a whole lot more of that.

And there was something unintentionally funny watching a flick with this premise and seeing the Sci-Fi Channel announce that Kentucky Fried Chicken was sponsoring the movie. If only it had been a steak place then it truly would have been comedic gold.

One more thing worth noting, I have absolutely no idea what the heck was the point of including the Rachel Hunter character other than to give the film a female presence. Her character has absolutely no purpose whatsoever. She never ends up in peril, she never has a big confrontation scene with her boss, she really doesn’t act as a whistle blower against her boss, and most shocking of all, she’s not doesn’t even become the lead’s love interest. So why is she in this movie? I guess that qualifies as the film’s one deviation from the formula. Guess G.A.S.P. must have hiccupped on that one?

Larva plays out like somebody combined Alien with Bats but jettisoned the suspense of the former and kept much of the blandness of the latter. I suppose it’s watchable if you have nothing better to do. I suspect most people just won’t have the patience to sit through it once it becomes obvious to them that the movie is just going through the motions. There really is no excuse for this movie to not be if nothing else, lively. I mean it’s a monster movie about killer parasites in a town called Host. For crying out loud, use some freakin’ imagination already! This is the kind of film that a company like New World Pictures or New Line Cinema would have had a blast with back in the 1980’s. We could use a little more of that b-movie joy here in the 21st century.

1 1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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