The Movie Waffler New Release Review - INFESTED | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - INFESTED

Infested review
The residents of a French tower block are terrorised by ravenous spiders.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Sébastien Vaniček

Starring: Théo Christine, Finnegan Oldfield, Jérôme Niel, Sofia Lesaffre, Lisa Nyarko

Infested poster

Spring is generally the time of year when you start to find spiders lurking around your home, and Spring 2024 has brought a mini arachnid infestation to our screens. Along with the Australian production Sting, French creature feature Infested is the second of a pair of spider themed movies to arrive as the days grow longer.

Both films have roughly the same premise, that of a naïve young person inviting a mysterious spider into their apartment, only for it to grow to a massive size and terrorise the residents of their building.

Infested review

In this case the building is one of those brutalist social housing tower blocks that dominate the skylines of working class French suburbs. Like a Gallic Del Boy, twentysomething Kaleb (Theo Christine) has a lockup in the building's basement filled with dodgy goods which he and his friend Mathys (Jerome Niel) flog to the locals. Kaleb's bedroom has been turned into a minor natatorium, filled with exotic creatures. The latest addition to his collection is a spider he acquires from the backroom of a local pawn shop. Kaleb believes the creature to be harmless but the audience knows better, as we were made privy to its deadly ways in a middle eastern set prologue that detailed its capture.

Of course, the spider escapes from Kaleb's bedroom and not only does it start growing, but it gives birth to many other spiders, which in turn multiply until the building is…well, the title says it all.

Infested review

Like Sting, Infested invests quite a bit of time in establishing its characters, but in this case they're quite clichéd and often veer into uncomfortable racial stereotypes. Kaleb has an estranged relationship with his sister Manon (Lisa Nyarko), who wants to sell the apartment they inherited from their mother. The mixed race Kaleb pines for his white mother, but there's oddly never any mention of his presumably black father. Most of the black male characters are portrayed as criminals or meatheads solely interested in acquiring a new pair of sneakers. The building's janitor is an elderly Chinese woman (Xing Xing Cheng) whose only defining feature is that she scowls a lot in a modern riff on the old offensive dragon lady trope.

This sort of stuff jars with the film's superficially progressive message about the treatment of minorities in France, and with how it cheaply turns the police into one-note villains in the climax. Much of the characterisation is overly reliant on characters crudely detailing their backstories and interpersonal relationships in brief monologues in between spider attacks. Writer/director Sebastian Vanicek struggles to build character through action in the manner of the best survival thrillers and monster movies.

Infested review

Thankfully Vanicek's unconvincing writing is balanced with some very convincing set-piece staging. He's been snapped up to direct the next instalment of the Evil Dead franchise, and it's easy to see why. Once the spiders get loose there are some sequences that are so effective you'll be checking your bedsheets for eight-legged intruders before you can sleep soundly. Vanicek creates some great "Get the hell out of there!" moments as spiders emerge in the background of shots, unseen by oblivious characters in the foreground. A sequence in which the protagonists are forced to slowly walk through a corridor filled with spiders of all sizes is the stuff of nightmares, as is an adrenaline fuelled chase up several flights of stairs.

At a certain point however the film begins to contradict the rules it's established regarding its arachnid antagonists, and I'm still confused about a couple of details in the manic climax. A few well-executed scare sequences and the convincing creepy crawly FX are just enough to make this a recommend for animal attacks devotees. But the lack of onscreen kills, clichéd characterisation and inconsistent storytelling greatly detract from what could have been an all-time classic of the nature run amok sub-genre.

Infested is on Shudder from April 26th.

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