Deadly Swarm (2003)

Deadly Swarm (2003)

In Guatemala, a team lead by disgraced scientist Dr Schroeder uses force on the local natives to learn the whereabouts of a rare breed of deadly wasp located in the dense jungle. They arrange for a drug dealer to transport the wasps in a container to Mexico but there is an accident along the way and the wasps escape. American entomologist Daniel Lang is down there studying the local mosquitoes when people in the nearby town start to turn up dead, victims of the deadly stings. However the town has an upcoming festival and the mayor refuses to believe him until it is too late. Along for the ride is a snoopy American journalist down in Mexico following a drug trafficking ring and Dr Schroeder himself, who has a keen interest in what happens to the town.

 

I nearly cried whilst writing that outline. Not because the film sounds bad (which it does) but because it features THE single most over-used plot in monster films ever – that of the unseen menace terrorizing a town with a some kind of festival approaching and the local authority figure refusing to believe that there is a problem because he wants to make plenty of cash. Jaws has a lot to answer for. I’ve never been a big fan of ‘insects attack’ creature features either. I much prefer larger, single creatures doing the killing than a whole nest or swarm of insects. There’s nothing I find really scary about that. I’d much rather watch a big lizard that can bite me in half as opposed to a load of flying critters that I can swat out of the air or stand on.

Deadly Swarm does nothing to change that either. It limps along in a linear path, going through the usual motions of trying to entertain you with some poor set pieces and laughable attempts at tension. Calling it a ‘horror’ would do classics of the genre an injustice. It’s more like a sci-fi thriller only without anything remotely thrilling (and without any real science it has to be said!). The wasps just show up every now and then to sting some stock characters and then in the meantime we just have the characters talking about the wasps. There was something in there early on about the wasps laying eggs inside people and then hatching out of their stomachs. But the CGI in this scene is so poor that the film forgets it ever happened and moves on never to comment on it again.

Instead of attempting to do something a bit more out-of-the-box like this, Deadly Swarm is content enough to play out the well worn ‘monster-on-the-loose’ card where a town is getting menaced by some unknown force in the run up to a special festival or event. It’s the Jaws formula down to a tee but if I begun ranting on that, I’d never stop. Safe to say I wish films would take a few liberties now and then and try something new instead of rehashing the same plot that must have been used a thousand times over since 1975.

Casting in these films is always tricky. Do casting directors intentionally pick the most clichéd looking actors to fill their roles? Or do they actually see something in these people that the audience doesn’t? Shane Brolly is very bland in the lead role – a few expressions wouldn’t hurt would it? I’m guessing because he looks young and rugged that he got the role. It would have worked better with an older man in the entomologist role. But then we wouldn’t have a romance subplot would we? Kaarina Aufranc adds a bit of zest to her reporter role but again, was she cast because she’s a cute little number or because she can act? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that as soon as we find out both leads are single, that their paths will cross during the film and they will fall in love. Would it hurt anyone to pull a swerve and not have them fall in love?

Filling out the other roles, we have Pepe Serna and he impresses as the kindly local sheriff – his most infamous cinematic moment probably being sliced up by a chainsaw as Al Pacino watched on in Scarface. J. Patrick McCormack hams it up unbelievably as the scientist, Dr Schroeder. This guy has ‘boo me’ written all over from the first moment you see him. He always looks like he’s going to crack a smile and burst into tears of laughter through the film. When he explains all in the finale, I was laughing at him. Speaking of which, the way in which the killer wasps are finally overcome is one of the most cop-out endings I’ve ever seen. Bit of credit due for not having them blow the nest up but come on, this ending?

 

Deadly Swarm is competently made for a TV movie but that’s about all I can say positive about it. Desperate or easily pleased bug fans check in here. The rest of you just get out the Raid spray to keep this swarm from infiltrating your TV set.

 

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