THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
After watching 1988's The Nest, now on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory, I felt the intense need to go and scrub myself. This is a movie about a swarm of killer cockroaches. How's that for a horror premise? While often silly, the film doesn't shortchange you on the squirm scenes; they're undeniably effective, and reason enough for genre fans to give The Nest a look if they've never seen it.
Our hero is Richard Tarbell (Franc Luz), the sheriff of a small New England island town, whose long-lost love, Elizabeth (Lisa Langlois), returns home after a four-year absence. They tentatively rekindle their relationship, only to have it halted by some serious drama. Her father, Elias Johnson (Robert Lansing), is the mayor of the town and, in that role, has made a deal with the shady INTEC corporation. As a result of INTEC's experiments, a strain of mutant cockroaches has been unleashed. The insects roam around, attacking any living being they encounter, including one really unfortunate cat. Together with Elizabeth and the town exterminator – a character conceived as a blatant ripoff/homage to Bill Murray's Caddyshack groundskeeper Carl Spangler – Tarbell must find a way to stop the bugs from eating all the citizens of the town. Trouble is, they're impervious to normal insecticides and developing means by which to take the form of whatever they kill.
The Nest is mostly a very typical '80s low-budget exploitation picture. The performances are adequate at best, the dialogue is corny, and the direction by Terence H. Winkless (co-writer of The Howling) is only serviceable. There's not much to distinguish it.
Except, of course, for the bugs. Oh, how marvelously effective the bug scenes are! As with many genre pictures of this sort, you can tell that the filmmakers were psyched to create the signature horror scenes, and everything else was a mere formality required to set them up. Any time the cockroaches are unleashed, The Nest suddenly turns into creepy-crawly entertainment. This is especially true in the third act, which goes unrepentantly over the top in a way I kind of admired. First you get a diner infestation sequence that might make you swear off greasy spoon restaurants forever. Then you get a person who turns into a giant cockroach and, eventually, a face-off against the cockroach queen, truly one of the craziest screen beasts you will ever behold. In these moments, The Nest is pure B-movie fun.
The Blu-Ray makes the film look about as good as it could ever hope to, and there's a bonus audio commentary from the eloquent Winkless. The Nest was originally released by Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures, which cranked out a lot of exploitation fare back in the day. It's a movie with undeniable kitsch value, in addition to a handful of scenes that will make your skin crawl.
For more information on this and other Scream Factory titles, please visit the official website.
The Nest is rated R for language and gory violence. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.
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