Lionsgate // 2005 // 89 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 20th, 2006
Man doesn't rule the planet anymore.
Made-for-TV scifi movie. Genetically mutated yellow jackets. Wisecracking exterminator with a flamethrower. You do the math.
Michael Shanks from Stargate SG-1 plays Kent, a brilliant scientist from a genetics lab, hard at work at screwing nature in its piehole. He's been messing around with insect DNA, and the results have been an incredible new variation of the common yellow jacket. This new breed is more resilient, packs a bigger punch in its venom, and is a whole lot meaner. Unfortunately, a nighttime lab mishap leads to an escape -- and a stung-to-death janitor.
Suddenly, these little bastards are loose in a small community, and reproducing. Unsuspecting townsfolk find themselves face to face with carnivorous stinging insects, and few live to tell the tale. As the swarm gains in strength, the town officials are reluctant to do anything because of the gigantic BBQ festival scheduled to take place. It's of major importance to the town economy, but will provide a veritable buffet for the yellow jackets.
So it now falls to Kent, the fetching professor (Carol Alt) and the enterprising exterminator Q (Richard Chevolleau) to rid the town of the pest explosion.
Swarmed is a by-the-numbers mutant creature feature, swapping dino-crocs and piranha and crabs and whatever else Scifi Pictures has let run amok to menace folks with pissed-off yellow jackets. Comparisons to Arachnophobia are expected -- and deserved. You got the quirky, over-zealous exterminator and the hapless hero and victims meet their fate one-at-a-time, steadily building to an all-out attack by the insect horde, and a finale involving fire. The only thing missing? Thrills. Humor. Suspense. And a genuine sense of terror.
But it's not horrible, either. For one, the CGI is solid. Granted, computer generating yellow jackets isn't a feat on par with bringing Gollum to life, but these little dickheads look convincing enough. A few shots betray their digital creation, but the vast majority of the yellow jacket sequences are effective. And when they do come across as a bit too unrealistic, you won't care, because it fits the lighter mood of the film. "CGI not distracting, even when it's sub-par: point to Swarmed."
The insect mayhem itself is decent. While there are presumably a finite number of inventive "sting-kills" one could conjure up, Swarmed managed to throw together some entertaining dispatches. One guy gets a stinger square in the eye, another while hiding in a dunk tank, sucking in air through a hose, inadvertently swallows a few enterprising bugs, a girl is overtaken inside a car when the jackets ooze through the heater vents, and more than a few victims are gang-stung. Most of these scenes are prefaced by a yellow jacket POV shot, which is cheesy yeah, but, again, appropriate for the film's tone.
Credible CGI, varied death scenes, playful tone: those are the high points. Everything else is strictly by-the-book, leading up to the bzzzzy (ha!) climax where the yellow jackets descend on the BBQ fair and sew discord among the attendees. It's a textbook when-nature-attacks formula executed with little flourish.
In the A/V department, Swarmed delivers, boasting a clean 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and an active 5.1 surround mix. Trailers are it for extras.
I think fans of this kind of movie should enjoy it adequately enough, but there's just not enough new and interesting spins on the genre to separate it from the (very large) hive. Serviceable, at best.
The accused is given a hive-five (yeah!).
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13