Bugs, cockroaches specifically, are often considered to be “gross” or “icky” by the laymen. Yes, they’re creepy, they’re crawly and feared by the population. People will crush them with a book or whatever blunt instrument they have nearby. And yet, we idolize them. Countless numbers of toys are molded in their image, constructed like statues to honor our insect gods and Halloween is their day, as their image is molded into tasty treats for the little kiddies to eat. Thousands of movies feature them as the star, but always as the villain. Seems like those pesky cockroaches can’t catch a break. Fear and loved simultaneously, can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. They always seem to be causing problems, like in the not-so-smash-hit-feature, The Nest.
Take the small island of North Port, for example. Talk a about a big bug problem! Sheriff Richard Tarbell not only has this issue to deal with, but also the fact that he’s a stereotyped small town, 80’s sheriff. His mop haircut blankets a good portion of his head and apparently they only had the budget for half a uniform, since he’s always wearing jeans. A lot of movies in the 80’s dressed their local police up like they found a handful of Sheriff’s tops at a thrift store, but couldn’t find the pants. Oh and what would our cliched Sheriff be if he weren’t in cahoots with Mayor Elias’ daughter, who just came back and the reason they broke up was because she left? Oh and his current girlfriend works at the diner, because that’s the only other occupation in a small town. Haven’t you ever seen Squirm or the remake of The Blob? Luckily, he has his oddball exterminator friend, Homer, who I swear belongs in a video game. Seriously, the guy bops around on a busted moped, wearing glasses, a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. Tell me you don’t see this character somewhere in Grand Theft Auto. Anyway, Homer has been noticing that his gas isn’t killing these roaches. Something different about these ones.
This is where the evil corporation, INTEC comes in, who are in cahoots with Mayor Elias. All we know for now is that INTEC is doing “stuff” and the mayor is getting money. Hey, good enough for me. Actually it turns out they have been experimenting with breeding mutant cockroaches! And why? Um… science? Huh, usually you only get either an evil corporation or mutants of some kind. Most movies can’t contain both an evil corporation and mutant bugs, but this movie grabs them both by the horns, throws them in a blender and shouts, “Suck it, society! I’m man enough for both!”
Anyway, why exactly is INTEC making super mutant cockroaches that are impervious to gases and chemicals? Well, at first it sounds clever, but then when you think about it, it’s actually kind of stupid. You see, they bio-engineered a hybrid of cockroaches that would eat other cockroaches and then die off. See what you did there? As you read that, you went, “Oh…” which quickly turned to, “ehhh, huh?” INTEC sends in the foxy and diabolical Dr. Hubbard to keep an eye on the Mayor to make sure he doesn’t pull any fast ones. But, like every evil corporation that decides to play God, their experiment goes wrong and these cockroaches get the desire to eat meat! Whether it’s animal or human, it’s on the menu. Not to mention, these cockroaches seem to take form of whatever they devour, much like The Thing in… um, The Thing. This actually results in some pretty spectacular effects, for the most part.
Aside from a few chewed up animal carcasses, we get to witness the birth of a cockroach and cat hybrid. Now, nevermind the logistics of how an animal would be reanimated back to life after being eaten by bugs or if it’s the cockroaches working as a group to form this new species (think of the Constructicons fromTransformers), just marvel at mother nature’s abortion as it gets squished by a bookshelf. And that’s not all! The mayor himself gets gobbled up to save his daughter. Although in retrospect, his sacrifice was pointless, since they both could have escaped to the same room, so I don’t see why he needed to lock himself in the bathroom. Well, if he didn’t do that, how else would we be able to show you a man turn into a giant cockroach? Remember Jeff Goldblum’s transformation scene in The Fly? If you don’t, consider this a refresher course.
Before the mayor “bugged out,” he managed to call in some sort of airstrike using gas, which would most likely kill everyone on the island. Homer and the Sheriff rush to fix the town’s lighthouse to signal the planes, but they are running out of time, as the roaches seem to be coming from everywhere. Like in Aliens, Hudson said it best when he said, “It’s a bug hunt!” So our heroes go to find a queen and destroy it. Upon searching the cave, they found what they are looking for and what they find is, again, similar to the Blair Monster from The Thing. Only this queen cockroach/human/skeleton/gloppy thing is… kinda silly. Gotta say. Well, let me back up a bit. It’s actually pretty cool, until it starts moving. The thing hovers around like someone is pushing a really fat person around in a wheel barrel and for being something that is supposed to have more than a few legs, it doesn’t move very organically. Luckily, the film’s saving grace for this monster is when it bites the top of Dr. Hubbard’s head off. Girl, she was all cray cray anyway.
This was done in the days when everything was done practically, before the lifeless CGI. Sure it’s easier, but just seeing thousands of live cockroaches, scurrying on the floor and up peoples legs. You can imagine hundreds of tiny, cold little legs tickling your skin and that horror you feel as you look to see dozens of cockroaches. It’s that feeling you know those bugs are real that send the shiver down your back and question the tickling feeling it’s getting. The film has plenty of those gross out moments, filled with plenty of blood and organs (especially the eyeball popping scene) and the monsters are actually pretty grotesque.
A worthy contender to other bug movies, like Slugs, it’s also interesting to note that the film’s producer was Julie Corman, wife of Roger Corman! Making sanguinary, low budget gross out flicks must be a Corman tradition that I hope continues. Check out The Nest, now on Bluray from Scream! Factory and don’t let the bed bugs bite!
If you have a bug problem, just call The Lost Highway!