The combination of horror and comedy has been one of the premiere "go to" mash-ups over the past few decades. Some — like Eight Legged Freaks – fail to deliver on any large scale, while others win over legions of fans and go on to be cult favorites. For good examples of the genre, look no further than Evil Dead II, Dead Alive, and the recent Shawn of the Dead. Now comes Infestation, a film which seeks to tread similar ground. It does turn out to be an entertaining movie, but I doubt that it will gain the same status of the combo-genres high water marks. I do suspect that it will gather a select group of fans while others will fail to see the point. I ultimately fall towards to the former, although I doubt it will ever be my go to movie for horror comedy.
As the film opens, we catch up with Cooper (Christopher Marquette of Fanboys and Freddy vs. Jason) who is running late for work. He runs into the office, quickly slips into his cubicle, and immediately pretends to be on the phone as he gets word that the boss wants to see him. We all know how this goes, he goes in, tries to worm his way out of trouble, and she fires him.
Now, this is where things begin to get interesting. You see, this opening bit is not really the story at all, but does a couple of things for us. First, it introduces us to out hero, Cooper, the character with which we will be spending nearly every moment. Second, it introduces him as something of a slacker who is not living up to his potential, thus beginning an arc of a young man finding his way and discovering purpose and meaning in his life. Yes, perhaps a lofty goal, but quite a common one.
The interesting moment comes just after the firing, you hear a loud noise, Cooper and his now former boss grab their ears and crumple to floor as the screen goes black. Moments later, the lights come up, and everyone in the office is covered in white webbing. One web begins to move and Cooper emerges from it. Within moments he is attacked by a giant bug that is intent on rewebbing our hero. Fortunately, our slacker may be a little more resourceful than we initially thought.
Anyway, he rips the webbing off a few people and they wake up from their web-induced slumbers. They immediately try to figure out what is going on, find more bugs around outside and attempt to hash out a plan.
Honestly, there is not much more to the film than that. I did not find Infestation to be particularly scary or particularly funny, but it is entertaining. The group swells and shrinks as people come and go and move in a general path that makes cinematic sense, but there is not much in the way of development of plot or characters. If you want an explanation of where the bugs came from, you'd best look elsewhere. It is a truly anomalous situation. And yes, we do get to see Cooper discover an internal strength he didn't have at the beginning of the piece. However, the whole thing never really leads anywhere. In actuality, it sort of feels like a beginning, as if there is more to tell in this world.
Infestation is a movie that has a direction, but never really goes all the way down the path. Why it fails to completely satisfy, I am not sure. It is sort of like Cooper at the start of the movie – it wants to have fun, it wants to offer a little excitement for a dull day, but does not want to try too hard to achieve it. I realize some of the reason may be budgetary, as this is definitely at the lower end of the scale, and notable for its not-quite-convincing CG effects. Writer/director Kyle Rankin has some ideas, I just wish they were more fully realized. It feels very derivative, but still offers some fun.
The performances are generally decent. Chris Marquette is a likable persona, although I am not really sure he has the presence of a lead, at least not yet. His work is bolstered when we run into Ray Wise as Ethan, Cooper's father. Now here is a guy with a commanding presence. The rest of the cast is filled out by Brooke Nevin as the love interest, Sara; Kinsey Packard as the high-heel sporting, Cindy; Wesley Thompson as Albert; and E. Quincy Sloan as Hugo.