Black Swarm (2007)

DECEMBER 14, 2010


Much like yesterday’s Vipers, Black Swarm is part of the Maneater line of DVDs, and is also one of the better ones. Neither are necessarily GOOD, but at least they’re not that boring, and toss in some ringers in the cast, in this case Robert Englund. It’s a bit of a ridiculous role, since he is introduced as a creepy old man, turns out to be kind of charming, then seems evil, only to turn out to be a hero of sorts (even though he created the genetically enhanced wasps that are killing folks), but Englund is one of the few guys who can play that sort of duality with ease, making him likeable but not entirely trustworthy – it wasn’t until the final few moments of the film that I was able to decide he was a good guy.

But his back and forth character design is nothing compared to the film’s heroine, who may be one of the most unintentionally awful people I’ve ever seen in a movie (including villains). This woman left her fiancĂ© (Devin) at the altar for his twin brother Dan, despite being pregnant with Devin’s child. She tells Dan that the kid is his, and then later, after he dies, ends up going back to Devin and telling him the truth, that the child that he’s never met that he thought was his niece is actually his daughter. And again, they are twins, which just confuses the hell out of the little girl and makes things twice as icky for all involved. Christ, the poor kid is going to need so much therapy.

Dan’s death is pretty much the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen in a movie too. It occurs roughly 90 seconds into the movie, when he’s trying to kill some wasps and the hive somehow explodes. From the explosion, we slam cut to a credits sequence that features a lot of microscope slides and close-ups of bees and shit like that, but also a newspaper with the breathtaking headline: “Local twin killed in freak wasp nest accident”. OK, how slow of a news day is it that someone non-famous dying makes the headline, but do they really need that much information? Who cares if he’s a twin? And what, exactly, could be considered a NON-“freak” wasp nest accident?

But it’s all part of the fun. I mean come on, it’s a movie about super soldier wasps that can turn people into zombie-like “drones” – not exactly looking for subtlety in the plot developments. In fact, if anything they could have gone even more, ugh, “B-movie” with the drone stuff – they don’t really do much. One kills another guy by puking bees over him, and they sort of menace our heroes in the climax, but that’s about it. It’s not even clear if they are still alive or simply being puppeted by the bees. But it’s still a cool concept, and it keeps the movie from having to rely solely on CGI wasps to provide the thrills.

Vipers offered far more ridiculous dialogue though. The only real howler here is “You tweaked the wasp genome?”, but even that’s got nothing on “This isn’t terrorism, these are snakes!”. To make up for it, it has an old blind lady who dies trying to save a little kid – it reminded me of the grandmother in Dante’s Peak who melted off her legs by walking in lava. On the other hand, it definitely improves on Vipers’ overpopulation problem – Black Swarm wisely sticks pretty much to Devin, the horrible horrible woman, the little kid, and Englund. The rest of the folks in the movie are pretty much anonymous fodder.

I also like how batshit it got toward the end, with the little girl eating a genetically modified peach that produced pheromones that attracted the wasps. Thus, they see her as their queen, and so near the end she’s suspended in this cocoon thing, and the others can’t rescue her without pissing off the wasps that are trying to ‘protect’ her. There’s also an evil entomologist (!) that is all for letting the little girl be the queen. I mean, you gotta respect a movie that tosses this much nonsense at you (plus, of course, the continuing story thread of our horrible heroine practically ruining the lives of two men).

With a little more action in the middle this could have been a superior Maneater release, but Sea Beast remains my favorite. I also had to dock it a point for the terrible and overlong closeup of an “Elm Street” sign. Come on. Englund wasn’t even in the scene! But unlike many (Hellhounds, Blood Monkey, etc), I actually enjoyed it. And as I believe Shakespeare himself once said, any movie that ends with a little girl violently smashing an anthill is automatically worth a look.

What say you?


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