Sunday, July 14, 2013

SyFy vs. The Mynd: Mansquito (2005)

aka Mosquito Man

A viral epidemic carried by mosquitoes is plaguing the USA, but scientist Dr Jennifer Allen (Musetta Vander) has a beautiful plan built on releasing mosquitoes immunized through drugs and radiation against the virus into the wilds to save lives. Unfortunately, Allen's approach to science is just a bit too careful for her boss Dr Michaels (Jay Benedict), and he decides to haul in multiple murderer Ray Erikson (Matt Jordon) as human guinea pig.

Of course, Erikson uses this as an opportunity to escape. That attempt ends in a catastrophe: the killer becomes exposed to quite a bit of mosquito-immunizing goo and radiation, and quite quickly begins to turn into…a Mansquito.

His ensuing bloodsucking spree is investigated by Lt. Randall (Corin Nemec), who also just happens to be Allen's boyfriend. Apart from the increasingly aggressive Mansquito, other problems come up soon enough. Allen herself was exposed to some of the science goo too, but in her case, it was little enough to induce a very slow transformation rather reminiscent of Cronenberg's The Fly, if The Fly had been more like a classic creature feature, and quite a bit more silly.

Allen's slow transformation does of course incur Mansquito's romantic interest, so he begins hanging around Allen, popping away to suck somebody's blood now and again, until she will turn into a girlsquito. Once the transformation is finished, romance should ensue unobstructed. Hopefully, someone will blow the nasty bug up before that can happen.

I hate being the guy throwing around words like "perfect" when describing another SyFy monster movie, but it's impossible for me to watch a film as well put together and often downright exhilarating in its willingness to push all the right buttons of a creature feature crossed with The Fly as Tibor Takács' Mansquito and not get excited.

In fact, a lot of my experience of watching Mansquito (winner of the prize of best-titled movie of 2005) is coloured by me giggling like a loon. That's not because Mansquito is silly (which it sure is, if you still need to ask), or cheesy (which it just as sure is), or not exactly coming done on the side of believable science (which it absolutely does not), but because Takács knows all this about his movie and still directs it with total conviction. Even though everyone involved clearly knows about the silliness of the whole affair, there's no visible attempt to distance themselves from the film; even when irony and humour occur, they do so in an organic, not a distancing manner. It's a lovely thing to behold if you're tired of films unwilling to take themselves seriously (I'd argue films about silly nonsense like mansquitoes particularly need to take themselves seriously), or in love with undermining themselves for a cheap gag.

Of course, earnestness alone does not make a creature feature remarkable or even worth watching; a film needs other virtues to win my heart at least. Takács fortunately delivers the good stuff here: Mansquito is excellently paced with a real sense of escalation to it, and - like it should be - with nary a boring minute. I think the Allen-transformation angle helps a lot with the last one, because it makes what can become scenes of character-based boredom in films of this sub-genre interesting. The film goes through all the standard scenes of creature features about lovelorn monsters (unless you need a bathing scene - white bathing suits are just not a mosquito thing) without them ever feeling generic or bland.

Atypically for a Sci-Fi Original (we are after all very early in that particular cycle, and this may or may not be the first of these films where the channel actually involved itself in the production instead of just buying a finished film), Mansquito's monster is made via the magic of suitmation, with a few CGI enhancements, particularly once Manny has grown his wings, and while nobody will confuse it with a real living creature (don't pretend you don't know the Government has an army of mansquitoes waiting in the wings), there's a mass and a reality to it cheap CGI effects generally just can't achieve. Plus, the suit can more regularly be in the same shot as the actors, which enables more interesting camera work.

There's a sense of personality in every shot that is difficult to describe on a more analytical level than saying you'll either feel it and love the movie (and Takács) for it, or you won't and will bemoan it as generic. It's a part of the film's feel I find difficult to pin down, the kind of thing that turns a movie into something special for me yet that might not be there for anyone else, though I doubt people who enjoy creature features at all will be immune to Mansquito's charms.

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