Deadly Swarm
Miramax // R // $9.98 // August 13, 2013
Review by Bill Gibron | posted September 14, 2013
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A fool only treads where a genius once failed. In this case, why take on the stellar stink of Irwin Allen's abysmal attempt to glom onto the killer bee craze of the 1970s, The Swarm, with another murderous insect romp? Oh sure, sure, said horror subgenre has been inundated with dopey bug butt from the moment filmmakers learned that close-up images of ants look really menacing against a postcard miniature backdrop (right, Bert I. Gordon?), but modern technology should be capable of making most eight legged freaks frightening, right? Well, not when they are rendered as nothing but deadly dots by an F/X team armed with what appears like a Commodore 64. If The Asylum had made Deadly Swarm, we may have gotten something akin to the glorified goofiness of their most recent mockbusters Atlantic Rim or Sharknado. Instead, this is just another example of low budget hokum that even Charles Band and AIP would reject as ridiculous.

Jacob Schroeder (J. Patrick McCormack) is a scientist who believes that the venom of a rare wasp will help cure many terminal diseases - or maybe just cancer. He will stop at nothing at getting his pharmaceutical company windfall - sorry, to test his noble intentions, and so he rounds up a group of Guatemalan natives and threatens them with a gun until they disclose the insects' location. Once he's gathered up a bunch of these bugs, he heads to the Mexican border to reenter the US...less than legally, that is. One accident later and what looks like a bunch of pixelated pinpoints take out a cop. This leads an entomologist named Daniel Lang (Shane Brolly) - who, as luck and a ludicrous script would have it, is working nearby - to conclude that there is a real deal threat of the surrounding populace being stung (or, perhaps, bored) to death. Working with a right minded sheriff (Pepe Serna), they have to convince the resident clueless mayor (cue mandatory Murray Hamilton reference) to shut down a planned festival/carnival/plot contrivance less hundreds be harmed by these badass bees.

Deadly Swarm is the kind of movie that makes you shrug your shoulders and wonder aloud, "Why bother?" It belittles the genre it attempts to live in and sullies such schlock classics as The Beginning of the End, Them! , and The Giant Spider Invasion (VANCE!!!). Instead of going for something campy or kitsch, director Paul Andresen (of the Insane Clown Posse's Big Money Rustlas fame) and his writers John Dombrow and William H. Stewart play it all too seriously. Instead of making some sort of tongue in cheek comment on the ridiculousness of the premise, or its equally horrific execution, they think they are making the prickled thorax version of Jaws, down to the same character beats and narrative turns. All that's missing is Quint, a story about the U.S.S. Indianapolis, and an off tune version of "Spanish Ladies." Oh, and Steven Spielberg's genius behind the lens. Oh, and competent make-up effects. Oh, and a reason to care.

In fact, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope should have made cameo appearances here. It would have given Juggalos, and audience members like me, something to look forward to. Instead, this movie just meanders, moving from dull, insipid set-piece to the next. Wanna see what happens when a bunch of animated spots explode from a corpse? Well, for what it's worth, that's here. Need to see how small town bureaucracy works? Present and accounted for. In fact, one could easily excise the bug stuff from Deadly Swarm and add their own homemade "horror" and it would still work. Indeed, this movie is so nondescript and generic that if you changed "killer wasps" to "psychotic chocolate covered raisins" or "angry left over graph paper from your eight grade geometry class," you'd have just as frightening a film. And just as logical...or legitimate. While obvious artistic and financial constraints show through, it's also clear that Andresen et. al. had no idea how to salvage their silliness, a way to make it entertaining, or adequate or merely watchable. As a result, this Swarm is as Deadly as Irwin Allen's 30 years before. It's also as bad.

From a DVD standpoint, Lionsgate does what it can with this dog. The film was supposedly made in 2003 (if you believe the Internet Movie Database) and it shows. The technology 10 years ago renders the image flat and lifeless, and the 1.78:1 anamorphic image does very little to remedy that. Instead, the transfer treats this title like the lo-fi loser it is. SyFy shows better no-budget offerings than this. As for the sound, the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround is basic. When these belligerent bees are a-buzzin' the speakers spark up. When they aren't the channels choose to keep everything front and center. Unfortunately, these means the lame dialogue is always easy to understand. Want the last sign that this title is a travesty? Number of bonus features - None!

Deadly Swarm is the kind of experience that you can't share as part of some So Bad, It's Good novelty. It's not Birdemic, The Room, Death Bed: The Bed that Eats, or Tiptoes. Instead, it's just one of a billion blatantly bad ripoffs of genre betters that can't even live up to the reputation of other offensive copycats doing the same. Instead, it's a easy to erase Skip It that more or less confirms that the irritated insect fright flick is as dead as a cartoon critter in a Raid commercial.

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