Playing like a combination of an ’80s direct-to-video creepy-crawly and the early body horror films of David Cronenberg (Shivers: the Parasite Murders), James Suttles’ The Nest is an effective genre entry.
While her family is browsing at a country yard sale one afternoon, young Meg (Maple Suttles) finds herself strangely drawn to a teddy bear on one of the tables. It’s strange because the bear is pretty scruffy-looking and has creepy, huge eyes. Her mother, Beth (Sarah Navrati) recalls having one just like it as a child (?), and the equally-creepy old man who is running the sale offers to give the bear to Meg for free.
As Beth and husband Jack (Kevin Patrick Murphy) continue browsing, Meg excitedly runs into the woods with her new treasure. Sitting against a tree, she stares into the bear’s eyes and suddenly shrieks in terror.
Rushing to the wood, her parents find her almost comatose. But when they get home, Meg keeps the bear close to her, despite whatever had frightened her earlier. In fact, she seems to be drawn ever nearer to it, even though there seems to be something moving inside.
As the days pass, Beth becomes increasingly troubled by Meg’s bizarre behavior. All the while, the stuffed animal seems to be making some sort of weird psychotic connection with her. Beth turns to Meg’s school guidance counselor (Drez Ryan) for help, but he is also creeped out by the little girl and doesn’t think he can do anything for her, especially after she grabs his arm and digs her fingers deep into his flesh.
When Beth trips over the bear on the basement stairs and smashes her head on the floor, she is taken to bed and drugged into incoherence by Jack and family friend Marissa (genre favorite Dee Wallace). They all seem to be forming a strange, Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style family unit, complete with dark circles under their eyes. They also have the habit of communicating with insect-like clicks.
Beth is definitely the outsider here. Having had a history of drug addiction, she relies more and more on the painkillers they’re administering to her. Bleary and disoriented, she can’t comprehend the horrors taking place around her.
Suttles’ film, written by Jennifer Trudrung, is definitely of the slow-burning variety. The cinematography by Greg Hudgins and production design by Shane Meador are appropriately dark and burnished, and the music by Neil Lee Griffin is funereal and heavy on chorus. And the production is definitely a family affair. In addition to the young star, there are lots of other Suttles in the credits.
Perhaps a tad long at 100 minutes, The Nest has a satisfyingly chilling conclusion that makes it a ride worth taking. It’s now available on Digital, On Demand and DVD from 4DigitalMedia.
Feature photo: Maple Suttles as Meg.