Sunday, August 11, 2013

SyFy vs. The Mynd: Black Swarm (2007)

Jane Kozik (Sarah Allen) has chosen a very bad time to return with her daughter Kelsey (Rebecca Windheim) to her hometown Black Stone to become (deputy?) sheriff. Ten years earlier, Jane left town after her exterminator husband Dan died in a wasps' nest explosion (seriously). There's a lot of backstory about her actually being in love with Dan's twin brother Devin (Sebastien Roberts) - now the town's exterminator - and running away from her hurt feelings for him that will become important soon enough.

These soap operatics fortunately do have to play second fiddle behind Black Stone's new, lethal problem. A swarm of rather evil genetically modified wasps has made their home in town, stinging people to death and turning them into what the film likes to call drones but what clearly are wasp zombies (wombies?). Curiously, it takes quite some time until someone realizes that it isn't normal for, say, the town priest to stumble around town while staring and making wasp noises, and once people realize what's going on, it might already be too late.

Because a simple mutant wasp swarm with assorted zombies just isn't enough, there's also a mysterious mad scientist (Robert Englund) out for redemption, and a helpful entomologist with plans even more frightening than her botox-caused (seriously, movie land, Botox doesn't make you look younger, but more like a corpse) facial paralysis (Jayne Heitmeyer).

How's a couple ever going to find the time to get back together again, as SyFy Channel law commands? Or are the rules different when a movie is even more Canadian than many other SyFy films?

By now, I like to imagine all SyFy Channel movies are taking place on a slightly bizarre alternative Earth where all divorcees get back together again after monsters have shown them the errors of their ways, the military prefers killer wasps to drones (not the zombie version), where every newspaper is full of headlines like "Battle Dogs kill hundreds in New York" and "Prophecy of Nostradamus averted by the magical standing stones of Native Americans", and where random working class people are the deadliest monster destruction force imaginable. It's a great place to visit at least once a week, as long as you don't have to live there as a character who dies after the second commercial break.

Even for a film taking place on SyFy Earth, Black Swarm is particularly silly, needing a viewer to swallow things like an evil military agent working undercover as an entomologist (it's rather Delta Green of her, now that I think about it), killer wasps as a great idea for biological warfare, and large wasps' nest shaped holes in the plot. Like, how did the wasps get to Black Stone? Do we have to imagine Englund's Eli as a kind of Richard Kimble figure not following a one-armed man but reports of wasps? Wait, I'd actually like to imagine that! And there's the point where Black Swarm's immense silliness starts to pay off, for the film is as entertaining and fun as it is silly, taking to the place a lot of the better SyFy movies inhabit where the silly also just happens to be the awesome like a pig takes to mud, never spending a single second to apologize for its nature but instead wallowing in it, for better rather than worse.

How shall I put it? This is a film that has frigging wasp zombies, and is clearly proud of that idea and adds another layer of fun to it by particularly showing the standby character types of small town cliché (and authority) - a cop, a priest, a mayor and an ice cream man - in zombie form. I bet Stephen King is a bit miffed he didn't think of that one first. The early appearances of the wasp zombies are even rather creepy, a mood Black Swarm loses once it really gets into its groove of all out (well, as all out as director David Winning can manage on the budget) exploding van versus wasp action, Englund doing a surprisingly well-weighed bit of overacting (and, I assume, relishing the opportunity to not be the bad guy for once) every friend of subtle overacting will appreciate, and increasingly weird plot wrinkles.

Did I already use the word "awesome"?

No comments: