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Swarmed (2006)

Starring Michael Shanks, Carol Alt, Tim Thomerson

Directed by Paul Ziller


You know that saying about a movie being so forgettable that you’ve already forgotten just about everything that happened by the time you’re leaving the theater? Well, the Sci-Fi Channel’s latest insect gone amok flick, Swarmed, is so forgettable that by the time the film reaches the third act you’ll have already forgotten most of what happened in the first two-thirds. I know I did – thank goodness I make it a habit to jot down some notes along the way for reviewing.

“Stargate SG-1″ star Michael Shanks plays a scientist trying to develop a genetically altered pesticide for killing wasps. Yeah, there’s a good use for that molecular engineering degree. Of course, the only thing he succeeds in doing is developing a pesticide that genetically alters yellowjackets, turning them hyper aggressive and making the venom from their stings excessively toxic. Upon making this grand discovery he promptly knocks off for the evening and goes home, thus allowing the bumbling night janitor a chance to bump open the container enough to allow two of the specimens to escape and kill him. One wasp dies in the process; the other hitchhikes to the morgue inside the dead janitor’s mouth where it promptly kills the coroner. While science boy does more research into the ramifications of this pesticide that mutates wasps into insect killing machines, bug babe Carol Alt is brought in by the cops to investigate the stinging deaths.

A movie about scientists trying to stop the trail of carnage left behind by a single mutant albeit average-sized wasp wouldn’t make for much of a movie so enter the young, black, fast-talking local exterminator who science boy often loans experimental pesticides out to. Named Q, and the only reason I remember his character’s name is because its only one letter, the “Bug Buster” shows up at the high-tech research lab because he needs some wasp-killing pesticide to deal with a local with a big wasp nest in his backyard. Science boy has bigger things to deal with so he tells Q to just get the stuff himself from the other room but don’t take the new stuff in the red container because it’s still experimental and has some “bugs” in it. Guess which container of pesticide Q takes? Guess what happens to the wasps in that nest after he sprays it? Guess the rest of the whole damn movie? Go ahead; I assure you it isn’t hard.

Let’s not forget to mention that the town in jeopardy is home of an annual cookout looking for the best backyard burger in the world; a cook-off competition that is supposed to be a major event worthy of national publicity despite the fact that when we finally see the thing it looks dinkier than an elementary school fall carnival. A ridiculous looking Tim Thomerson decked out like a country western singer you’d see performing on a rerun of “HeeHaw” plays the head of the BBQ sauce corporation sponsoring the big cookout who, of course, can’t afford for anything to go wrong because his stock dividends depend on the event being a roaring success. And the town mayor and police chief are also in the BBQ magnate’s pockets too.

Now can you guess exactly how the film will unfold? Can anyone not dictate the remainder of the film? I suppose if you’ve never seen a killer bee movie or any other B-movie about a swarm of killer flying insects then Swarmed might be new territory for you. The only thing saving Swarmed from being completely unwatchable is the obvious tongue-in-cheek nature of the film, but just because the people responsible for the movie knew they were making a cheesy movie doesn’t mean they deserve a pass. This is a movie that finally resorts to going for cheap laughs by having someone go nuts and chase a lone wasp around a building blasting away it with a shotgun. A movie like Swarmed is doomed to fail because it isn’t the least bit suspenseful and most of its attempts at being campy barely amuse. Mostly, Swarmed is just lame and stupid; the kind of stupidity where you feel stupid for watching it.

As for the computer generated wasps, most of the time they look like the kind of computer animation you’d find in a TV commercial for bug spray – hardly the source of menace. I can’t fully blame the filmmakers for this since the whole production appears to be one of the cheapest-looking Sci-Fi Channel features yet. The swarm itself constantly changes size; some people die almost immediately from one or two stings; others get stung repeatedly and still manage to hang on awhile, and I’m still not sure how a single wasp can completely take out a person’s eye from its socket.

Most annoying of all, the director constantly resorts to showing up the wasps’ point-of-view which looks like it was filmed through the bottom of an amber-colored soda bottle (see the above screen cap). There really is no need for it but since virtually every creature movie since Predator has required some type of colored creature vision… You could almost turn it into a drinking game – every single time the wasps’ P.O.V. is shown, take a shot. The movie will still remain forgettable to you because you’ll wake up so drunk the next morning you’ll have completely forgotten the movie you watched the night before.

No, I take that back; the most annoying thing of all is the Q character. It’s pretty damn hard to be expected to root for this stupid character considering that his stupidity is responsible for the mess in the first place, yet the movie makes him a main character, nobody ever even as much as scolds him for swiping the dangerous mutating pesticide he was specifically told not to take, and he’s one of the big heroes at the end. Science boy gives a speech about it being his fault for even developing the pesticide but the guy really responsible for all but two of the deaths is never even called on it.

There is, however, one great moment of zen to be found in Swarmed toward the end. Q is running around with a flamethrower on the streets of the seemingly deserted town. He finally encounters some wasps and begins running down the street screaming wildly while shooting at it with the flamethrower. In the background over his shoulder, a woman can be seen walking down the street in the other direction completely oblivious to what is happening just a few yards away from her, not even bothering to turn around to see what all the commotion is about. I can’t help but think that that pretty much sums up this movie. There just isn’t really any reason to bother to look.

1 out of 5

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Jon Condit