Monster Movie Monday: Infestation (2009)
Bit with a dog6
Matthew Turner | On 22, May 2023
Director: Kyle Rankin
Cast: Chris Marquette, E. Quincy Sloan, Brooke Nevin, Kinsey Packard, Deborah Geffner, Ray Wise
In the mood for a creature feature? Amazon Prime has a veritable menagerie of monster movies, so we’re working our way through them, one killer beastie at a time. Welcome to Monster Movie Mondays.
Written and directed by Kyle Rankin (Night of the Living Deb, Run Hide Fight), Infestation stars Chris Marquette as Cooper, a slacker who’s about to get fired from his dead-end office job. However, just as his boss, Maureen (Deborah Geffner), gives him his marching orders, a high- pitched sound knocks everyone out. Cooper wakes up, days later, to find himself and the entire office staff cocooned in webbing.
After freeing Maureen, Cooper heads outside to rescue her twenty-something daughter, Sara (Brooke Nevin), only to discover that the entire world has been taken over by giant, carnivorous alien insects, some of which can fly. Together with a group of fellow office survivors, Cooper and Sara attempt to reunite with various family members, while figuring out how best to fight off the alien creepy-crawlies.
The creature designs are a mixture of CGI and rubbery-looking models, but they’re smartly conceived, with a range of useful appendages, such as stag beetle-like pincers, poison-pumping nozzles and circular mouths with lots of tiny pointy teeth. There’s also a degree of evolution involved in the way the creatures reproduce, but to say any more would be to spoil one of the movie’s most amusing surprises.
Suffice it to say that the effects work is generally cheap-but-decent, with the filmmakers leaning into and embracing the low budget by having the creatures explode in comically thick white goop whenever they get splatted. To that end, Rankin gets the balance between comedy and horror exactly right – there are plenty of laughs, but the characters are always aware of the danger they’re in.
Script-wise, the film starts really well, with a thrilling – and darkly funny – opening sequence where multiple supporting characters get killed off in quick succession, leaving you with the feeling that no-one is safe. There’s also a degree of invention in the office battles – Cooper attacking a bug with a paper guillotine, for example – but the subsequent fights aren’t quite as inspired.
The performances are consistently interesting. Marquette makes a good lead as the slacker forced to step up – imagine a snarky sitcom main character having to fight giant bugs – and Nevin delivers an enjoyably feisty performance as his love interest, while the great Ray Wise effectively steals the second half of the film as Cooper’s no-nonsense, ex-Marine dad.
However, it’s fair to say that the script stumbles a little in that department too. For one thing, Maureen is never seen again, despite the team essentially searching for her throughout the film – one suspects there were plans for her fate in the insects’ nest that the budget couldn’t manage. Similarly, the character of weather woman Cindy (Kinsey Packard) is oddly written, like there’s something going on with her that the script never gets round to explaining.
Those minor issues aside, Infestation ultimately succeeds thanks to satisfyingly gloopy special effects work, likeable characters, genre-savvy direction from Rankin and a script that pulls off the tricky balance of comedy, horror and emotion. Isn’t it about time we had the promised sequel?