Millennium Bug, The (2011)

The Millennium Bug (2011

What’s Bugging You?

Fearing that the Y2K Bug will bring about the end of civilisation as the year 1999 draws to a close, Byron Haskin takes his new wife and his daughter camping at an old ghost town in the Sierra Diablo Mountains. But whilst there, they are kidnapped by a bunch of inbred hillbillies who need new breeding stock for their family. However, the arrival of the millennium also coincides with the once-every-thousand-years appearance of a giant monster which starts devouring everything in its path.

 

Part The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, part low rent Sy Fy creature feature movie, The Millennium Bug is a strange independent horror film which has come around about ten years too late. The Y2K Bug was THE talking point in the months running up to New Year’s Eve in 1999, with thousands of people across the world barricading themselves up in shelters, arming themselves with guns and stocking up on food in case the world ended thanks to the perceived-inability of some clocks to compute that 2000 was actually 2000 and not 1900. As it turns out, nothing happened that night and those people suddenly found themselves looking a little bit silly and wasting a lot of time, energy and money preparing for the apocalypse that never was.

Continuing along with this silliness comes The Millennium Bug, the directorial debut from Kenneth Cran, which delivers a plenty of low key fun without ever threatening to turn into a full blown cult classic. Those expecting the monster of the title to be the main focus of the film will be disappointed, at least for the first half of the film. The Millennium Bug plays out like a poor man’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes at first, introducing the standard genre tropes of a bunch of middle-class Americans being subjected to an arduous ordeal at the hands of some inbred hillbillies. Though it’s played tongue-in-cheek, it’s still very much run-of-the-mill backwoods horror material which has been played out to death over the last ten years or so. Banjo-strumming rednecks with mutant kids are hardly innovative inclusions into an overcrowded genre pool but that’s about the only characterisation you’ll get from them, or any of the characters for that matter. I’ve seen a few people say that they were about to switch off at this point and I was one of them because it’s not really what you’re expecting.

However, things do go a bit crazy when the titular big appears halfway through and the film changes gears. Heading into more traditional monster movie territory, The Millennium Bug suddenly gains the momentum it urgently needed in the first half and begins to showcase the obvious talents of the filmmakers across a number of areas. Whilst the script is still pretty muddled, at least the focus of the film is now squarely on the monster and the gory goodness that it brings with it.

I had expected the bug to be on the same size and scale as the usual Sy Fy or Asylum creature feature flicks so was surprised to see it looking like some reject from a Godzilla film. The thing is huge! The makers of the film, going under the moniker of No CGI Films, clearly set their stall out from the beginning and eschew any form of CGI, opting to bring to life the monster through the use of old school techniques including using miniatures and Godzilla-style man-in-a-suit moments. The use of these practical effects over CGI has its perks and pitfalls but at least gives the film a low budget, almost drive-in quality. This looks like it could have been some late 80s/early 90s straight-to-video monster movie. If you’ve been brought up on a diet of CGI extravagance then this may not be to your liking. But the mixture of miniatures and models and some clever camera tricky really go a long way to sending you right back in time to an era of simpler filmmaking. Major credit needs to go to the effects department because they do a far better job of bringing to life this gigantic fiend than 90% of big budget blockbusters have done using teams of animators on computers.

It isn’t just the monster that is ‘au natural’ but the gore is very much of the Sam Raimi / Peter Jackson old school variety.  The bug does chomp down on a few people, with an animatronic mouth filled with rows of massive teeth being used to good effect, but there is also lots of human on human violence as the hillbillies and family fight it out too. Expect axes to the face and a few stabbings with a generous helping of blood to go with them.

 

The Millennium Bug is a frustrating film. On one hand, you have a really solid monster movie with some excellent effects and lashings of gore. But on the other hand you have a poor backwoods horror film which comes off more campy than threatening. The two elements never work well together and the muddled approach that results from this really stops the film from breaking through to the next level. It’s a little rough in places, to be expected given that it’s a debut film, but you could do a lot worse.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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