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Case Number 15577

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Black Swarm

Genius Products // 2008 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // January 30th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Bromley floats like a hummingbird and stings like a wasp.

The Charge

Intelligent. Deadly. And out to destroy us. Meet the ultimate buzzkill.

Opening Statement

Have you ever watched one of those made-for-Sci-Fi Channel movies? The ones with the terrible CGI effects and the cheesy plotting and non-existent acting? Black Swarm is one of those, but with the addition of The Man Who Was Freddy.

Facts of the Case

The town of Black Stone is under attack by an infestation of bioengineered killer wasps that turn its inhabitants into mindless drones. The only hope in fighting against the little winged bastards are , of course, the town's exterminator (Sebastian Roberts, Ice Blues), his ex-flame the town sheriff (Sarah Allen, Secret Window) and the scientist responsible for creating the killer wasps in the first place (Robert Englund, A Nightmare on Elm Street).

The Evidence

To say that the 2008 Sci-Fi Channel horror movie Black Swarm is profoundly stupid would be to suggest that there is anything profound about it. No, instead the movie is simply dull—and that's the greatest sin a horror movie can commit. I could feel every minute of the (mercifully brief) 89 minute running time.

My biggest complaint about Black Swarm? The filmmakers didn't use any actual wasps in their killer wasp movie. They're all created with a computer. They're cartoons.

There is nothing scary about cartoon wasps. There is nothing scary about cartoon anything. Horror movies—especially insect movies—need some sort of tactile interaction for us to feel anything. Insect movies are supposed to have moments that make us squirm (see: Arachnophobia), or at least impress us that some insect wrangler gathered up a bunch of wasps. Black Swarm has none of it.

Maybe director David Winning recognized that the wasps look terrible and cartoonish in close up, because we don't actually get too many good looks at the little killers. For the most part, it's as the title suggests: a "black swarm" (read: floating cloud of dots) that zips around the sky.

Black Swarm does introduce one novel idea into the horror movie canon: the killer insect movie combined with the zombie movie. And, yet, because the movie fails on pretty much every level, you're left with a movie that doesn't satisfy as a killer insect movie or a zombie movie. It's bad twice.

Actually, I'm going to theorize that the whole reason for the "zombie" aspect is to cut costs on all that pesky insect CGI. It's not as if any real money was spent on zombie makeup, either; most of them stagger around with a few welts on their faces. I get chills just typing it.

Do the zombies do anything? Not really. I counted one who bashes someone's head, and another that spits wasps out of his mouth (like that guy in Stephen Sommers' The Mummy), but many of them continue to go about their daily routines. One zombie even directs traffic. I'm not kidding.

The rest is pretty much par for the course if you've ever seen a Sci-Fi Channel movie. The acting is wooden. The dialogue ranges from groan-inducing lines that are supposed to be funny ("Maybe they're playing hive-and-go-seek!") to groan-inducing lines that aren't ("You tweaked the wasp genome?"). Oh, and Robert Englund is in this movie, presumably because he found out someone somewhere had a camera out and was filming things.

I kid Robert Englund. He's too good for stuff like this, but if Freddy Vs. Jason didn't pay the bills, why did I have to sit through it?

The DVD of Black Swarm does an adequate job presenting a lackluster movie. The picture looks good, though the colors are intentionally muted; it's obvious that a good deal of digital "enhancement" went into creating the cinematography. The 5.1 audio track has a few effective moments. Any movie about swarms of killer wasps ought to have a few good "buzzing" surround effects, and this one has its moments.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

At least it's handsomely photographed.

Closing Statement

If you do plan on renting or (gag) buying Black Swarm, be sure to watch the bonus trailers that pop up before the movie starts. Previews for movies with CGI snakes (Vipers) and CGI ants (The Hive) should give you a pretty good indication of what you're in for.

The Verdict

Will cartoon RAID kill cartoon insects?

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 78
Extras: 0
Acting: 60
Story: 62
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: Genius Products
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb
• Official Site

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