Thursday, 9 April 2015

They Nest

Director: Ellory Elkayem
Writer: John Claflin, Daniel Zelman
Producer: Frank Hildebrand
Cast: Thomas Calabro, Dean Stockwell, Kristen Dalton
Year of release: 2000
Country: USA
Reviewed from: Festival screening (Cannes 2000)

Ellory Elkayem must have a real love of bug movies. He first came to attention with a highly acclaimed short film about giant spiders, Larger Than Life, and is currently shooting another oversized octoped story, Arach Attack (later retitled Eight-Legged Freaks), for Devlin and Emmerich's Centropolis Entertainment. Inbetween, he made his feature debut with this smashing TV movie about killer cockroaches.

The little fellas in this case are an unpleasantly large and particularly nasty African species which turn up on an island off the coast of Maine. Not only are they killers, but they lay eggs inside their victims. Unfortunately the only person with a clue about what is going on is Dr Ben Cahill (Thomas Calabro: Chill), a man deeply distrusted by the rather inbred islanders as a 'summer home' interloper. Only the local teacher (Kristen Dalton) and the town sheriff (Dean Stockwell from Quantum Leap) are prepared to trust him.

In a subgenre which might seem to have been done to death, the script by John Claflin and Daniel Zelman finds new and clever ways to scare the heck out of the audience, mixing gross-out imagery with genuine tension and fear, while Elkayem's direction is far better than one would expect on such a minor title. Among a largely unknown cast, Stockwell is his usual reliable self, and Calabro does a great job of playing an outsider battling the dual threat of ignorant locals and deadly invertebrates.

They Nest (aka Creepy Crawlers, not to be confused with They Crawl aka Crawlers) delivers scares, shocks and squirms in equal measure. It won't ever be a cult classic, but it's well above average and shows that a committed director with a good script can inject new life into hokiest of cliches. And though the film is played seriously, watch out for the scene in the hamster maze - possibly the funniest spoof of Aliens ever filmed.

MJS rating: A-
Review originally posted 11th February 2005.

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