Remembering my Memorial Day weekend, which was spent on a tropical island soaking up the sun, boating and drinking delicious beverages with umbrellas in them, I was completely drawn to a film that reminded me of the one aspect of my vacation that I could have done without. Gary Jones’ 1995 film, MOSQUITO, tells the tale of the typically tiny pests that have Josh Baskin-ed themselves into a much larger nuisance to the campers that they ultimately bloodlust for.
Opening to a shot of an interplanetary aircraft flying through space, MOSQUITO follows as that alien transporter crash-lands into a remote lake located in the northern Michigan wilderness. After feeding on the dying alien bodies, the mosquitos borne of that stagnant water grow to massive proportions and find their way to a local campsite hell bent on feeding off their blood. Its only when a group of misfits - the unfortunate couple Ray (Tim Lovelace) and Megan (Rachel Loiselle), forest ranger Hendricks (Ron Asheton of Iggy & The Stooges fame), “meteor”-ologist Parks (Steve Dixon) and an ensemble of of bandits lead by Earl (Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen) – team up to take on this insect invasion that things go awry. As the plot thickens, more and more of these beasts arrive and the elimination of the threat they pose to the human population at large quickly becomes the responsibility of this small group of people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Paying an obvious homage to the radioactively/genetically-enhanced animals that filled the screen in many of the B-movie horrors of the 1950s, this film is a color desaturation away from being completely indiscernible from its mid century counterparts. The cast of this film is composed of truly abysmal low budget actors and the script and characters within it play themselves right to their inabilities. Hendricks, despite being a park ranger, serves as the comic relief, playing a bumbling idiot, completely devout of any form of knowledge. The film’s two scientific minds – Megan and Parks – seem to just ramble random scientific terms (the chick says proboscis like seven damn times) with no sense of an understanding of the facts they are belching out. I’m not going to go too hard on them for this, though, because I do now know a bit more about mosquito biology than I did prior to watching this flick. For a film of this magnitude to display any educational merit is quite impressive.
The most recognizable actor in the film, Gunnar Hansen, who plays Earl, the ringleader of the violent gang, even succeeds in his failure of bringing his character to life. Albeit a big grizzly looking guy, he never seems to incite fear into the rest of the characters, something I’d expect a criminal mastermind of his type to easily be able to accomplish. I will, however, give credit where it is due, as he does deliver one of the film’s greatest lines, a timely pop culture reference to the character from which he claims his fame. In the later moments of the movie, when grabbing a chainsaw from a work shed, he asserts that, “I haven’t handled one of these babies in twenty years!” Apparently, you can take Gunnar out of TEXAS, but you can’t take TEXAS out of Gunnar. It’s all bad, but given the direction the film takes from the get go, I doubt the director would have wanted it any other way.
As far as effects are concerned, which often prove to be the important aspect of these cheesy B-movie horrors, I was quite impressed. While it is obvious that everything was done to meet the film’s shoestring budget – which I believe was in the $200,000 range. The insects themselves were all prosthetic puppets that had limited movement - short of their wings - and often appeared onscreen cheesily superimposed over the varying landscapes. Their lack of movement definitely limited the ways in which the attacks could be shot, but in a way, it seemed to add to the intended feeling of the film. Furthermore, the movie didn’t try to do anything it couldn’t, only showing a few moments of gore and relying on cutaways to add to the “suspense” factor. What they show isn’t a total fail, but trust me that their decision to limit the visuals in this department was a great idea. Finally, the dead bodies that lay strewn about the premises were a hot mess, but their dried up, rubbery skin truly work to sell them as being victims of blood draining super insects.
While the opening acts of the film were done quite well given what the movie intended to do, you truly start to reap the benefits of enduring through it all in the third act. It’s the moment when the radioactive mosquitos corral our friends into a cabin in the middle of the woods that turns out to be the epicenter of their “operation” that things truly get interesting. With a basement full of skeeter eggs and the perimeter walls surrounded by their entire army, the crew must somehow come together to invent some form of survival intelligence that did not exist before, and defeat their buzz worthy opponents. Watching their genius come to be is what makes MOSQUITO the gem that it truly is. I know it’s a cliché at this point, but here is where the phrase “so bad it’s good” comes into play.
While this movie ultimately made its way to the SyFy channel as one of its widely paraded animal-inflicting horror flicks, it is of a much higher production value than the majority of the crap they air. As far as numbers are concerned – not that it truly matters in the grand scheme of things - it’s more than quadrupled its budget and gathered a cult following in the process. With VHS, Laserdisc and several DVD releases over the years, it shouldn’t be hard to come by this one, so I’d suggest you fly out and grab it. I can almost guarantee that this is one MOSQUITO that doesn’t suck.
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