MARCH 10, 2011
Apparently, Sci-Fi Channel movies used to actually be pretty fun. In the ye olden days of 2004, the now Syfy aired Mansquito (inexplicably renamed MansquitoMan for DVD), a perfectly enjoyable B-monster movie that doesn’t waste time, keeps the CGI to a minimum, and takes a full hour to finally slip and give away its Bulgarian roots (it’s supposed to be in Baltimore). Why the hell can’t they still make em like this anymore? I’d gladly watch one of these every week.
It helps that they are ripping off a genuine classic (both versions of The Fly were clear influences), instead of other Sci-Fi Channel movies like they usually do. There’s no team of commandoes or whatever, or even any teens in a side plot – even the Mansquito’s victims are largely involved with the plot (his girlfriend, the scientist running the lab that created him, the hero’s partner, etc). But rather than just have the one scientist slowly becoming a Mansquito, we get the best of both worlds – a criminal turns into a Mansquito ten minutes in after being exposed to a ton of the chemical (they were trying to stop the West Nile Virus or something), whereas the heroine only gets a bit of exposure. So he turns instantly, becoming a full fledged Mansquito by the end of the first reel (and yes, this was pre-digital mania, so it’s actually shot on film) and killing folks, but she does the Goldblum thing and turns slowly – behavioral changes, then a few physical blemishes, discolored eyes, etc. That way we can get a lot of monster movie action that we tune in for, but also an above average tragic storyline, and enough time is spent with the character to actually care about her a little.
And then you have Corin Nemec, as her cop boyfriend who is investigating the Mansquito’s victims and then of course has to try to convince everyone else what they’re up against before it’s too late. Dude’s like a secret weapon of movies that should suck – as with Sea Beast, he straddles the line between camp and serious perfectly. AND he gets to yell MANSQUITO!!! before a failed attempt to blow the thing up with a grenade launcher. THIS is “winning”. I just wish Christa Campbell was in it more - she dies in the opening sequence, and by gunfire! She never even gets to SEE a Mansquito, let alone get killed by one.
Also, as I mentioned, Mansquito is not a CGI creature. For 95% of the movie, it’s just a dude in a pretty good suit, which allows director Tibor Takács (director of The Gate!) to make the action scenes a little more interesting than we usually get in these things. It’s not until the 3rd act (when it sprouts wings and begins flying around) that they start to use CGI, but he’s grounded again for the final 10-15 minutes and thus back to a practical suit. Shame they had to derail their effort (the flying scene is hardly essential), but the fact that they used the guy in a suit for as much as they did was admirable.
It’s also this 3rd act where they “prove” that they’re not in America or even Canada. I mean, I suspected as much, since all of these things are shot in Bulgaria, but they were doing a pretty good job of masking it, and the compact cast was primarily folks you had seen before. But the third act takes place at a hospital, and a bunch of cops show up once the Mansquito arrives and causes a panic, and pretty much every cop and doctor that speaks has that unmistakable awkward English accent. Plus the sirens are the UK “wheee YOOOOO wheee YOOOOOO” type, not the “Woooooroooowooooroooo” we have in America. Nice try, fellas.
I do wish they had done a little more research about mosquitoes. At one point Nemec discovers that the mosquito is bulletproof – where the hell did they get that? Cockroaches or beetles I could see, because they have hard shells. But a mosquito is pretty much the easiest thing in the world to kill, so I’m not sure why the man version would gain this unbreakable shell ability. Also (and I didn’t know this, it was in the IMDb goofs), male mosquitoes do not bite people for blood – they drink plant juice. This could have been used to a really interesting effect in the movie; the female hero starts wanting blood while the male villain (who was a murderer prior to becoming a Mansquito) slowly LOSES the desire to kill as the human side of him dies, and starts eating trees and flowers. Probably a bit too out-there for a Sci-Fi movie though. Still, something to think about for the remake in 2035 or so – after, The Fly was originally a cheesy horror movie too.
No matter. I have zero expectations for a Sci-Fi movie, and certainly wasn’t expecting this one to change things (indeed, it was given to me by someone who was hoping for a funny review). But I’d put it in the 95th percentile of Sci-Fi Originals, and will now seek out others from the era. It’s possible this was just a fluke, but maybe, just maybe, there was a time where they delivered reasonably entertaining movies more often than not. You have given me a reason to hope, Mansquito.
What say you?
P.S. According to the IMDb the DVD should have a making of – mine doesn’t have a goddamn thing except for some trailers (not even the trailer for Mansquito). Does yours? I assume you all own a copy.