Judge Gordon Sullivan is time-traveling to 2999 to get frightened by Y3K stories.
When it awakens, the nightmare begins
As 1999 rolled over into 2000, I was well aware of the specter of the Y2K bug. For those who don't remember, numerous computers stored their dates with six digits: two for the month, two for the day, and two for the year. That means that at midnight on the first of January, 2000, these computer systems would have no way to distinguish 1900 and 2000 in their dates because both are represented with two zeroes. There were horror stories warning of video rental fines being compounded for a century or insurance forms thinking people died before they were born. Seriously, people built bunkers and squirreled away cash—and then, nothing happened. Critical systems had already been patched, and the only headache people had to deal with January 1 came from hangovers. Despite the news stories and general anxiety surrounding Y2K, very few movies emerged from that heady time. Now, Millennium Bug takes the title a bit literally, offering a throwback horror flick that combines creature feature and redneck horror tale in one low-budget package.
Fearing the technology crippling fallout of the Y2K bug, a small family retreats into the Sierra Diablo mountains to wait out the mini-apocalypse. Little do they know that a family of rednecks inhabits the mountains, looking to take the family hostage for the purposes of sadistic torture. Little do either group know that a creature also lives in the mountains, and it has plans of its own.
Every horror fan has their own "golden era." Whether it's the Universal horror films of the 1930s or the slashers of the 1980s, we all look back somewhere as our favorite time for scary movies. The folks behind Millennium Bug obviously look fondly on the glut of creature features that sprang up in the 1990s before CGI was the order of the day. While the multiplex was filling up with Scream knockoffs, the video aisles were stocked with more and more films like Ticks or Carnosaur.
The throwback style isn't usually my cup of tea, but it's Millennium Bug's chief strength. First, the film does the smart thing and spices up the creature-feature plot with a mutant-family side dish. More importantly, the filmmakers don't try to revisit the films of yesteryear with today's technology. There's no significant CGI to be found in Millennium Bug. While a bit of help from the computer might have smoothed over some things, the practical effects give the film a handmade vibe that helps elevate the film above its contemporary low-budget brethren.
On DVD, the film maintains a pleasing look. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer does a fine job with the shot-on-HD source. Much of the film takes place in darker scenes, but the transfer keeps black levels deep and generally free of distracting noise. Colors are otherwise well-saturated, and detail is pretty strong throughout. The film's Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track does a fine job balancing dialogue and effects. Music—primarily used to shock—is also well-presented.
Extras kick off with a commentary featuring writer/director/designer Kenneth Cran, producer Jim Cran, and FX guru Dustin Yoder. The trio are chatty and spend most of the running time talking about their influences, the practical side of production, and how they arrive at the film's look. There's also an 18-minute making-of featurette that combines production footage with cast and crew interviews. Finally, four deleted scenes round out the disc, adding a bit of character development.
Of course with such recognizable genre forbearers, any film that reminds viewers of as many films as Millennium Bug is going to see a bit generic at times. This is definitely the case here; though I think it's worth getting past the feeling like you've seen it before, many viewers would be forgiven for thinking that Millennium Bug is just another creature feature. Also, while I think it ultimately works, the redneck/creature mashup that fuels the film's plot seemed a bit overdone to me, at least at first. I'm sure some viewers won't get over that initial feeling and will be left wondering why this couldn't have just been a straight creature feature or The Hills Have Eyes homage instead of both. Finally, the film's budget will work against it for some viewers. The film can appear flat and lifeless at times, largely due to the inability to pay for more extensive locations. It's not a huge problem for those versed in this type of horror, but it may turn off newcomers.
Millennium Bug is a neat little throwback horror flick that scratches an itch you might not even realize you had. By harkening back to the era before CGI-infected horror, Millennium Bug ends up being a love letter to the low-budget creature feature.
Guilty of a bit of nostalgic filmmaking.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Green Apple Entertainment
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