My Grandfather used to tell me if you can’t find something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Still, Grandpop never had to watch and then review a film like Black Swarm. This is another one of those Sci-Fi Channel original films that just can’t seem to find the quality bottle when mixing ingredients. Can someone please tell me how a network that could bring us Farscape and the Stargate franchise can’t seem to give us even one good original film? They must have produced a hundred films by now, and I can’t honestly say I’ve seen even a halfway decent movie yet.
Remember the killer bees scare back in the late 1970’s? While there were some legitimate threats, Hollywood seems to have been the only place where clouds of Africanized honey bees amass over some innocent remote town and start knocking off the local inhabitants. The latest entry in the “Swarm mentality” comes from The Sci-Fi channel, and on DVD courtesy of RHI Entertainment. In this case it’s not the old killer bees we have to worry about. Here we’ve got genetically altered wasps that cause all the damage. The idea is pretty much the same, however, and maybe somebody needs to have these guys wake up and smell the 21st Century.
Just about every science fiction cliché gets paraded for this one:
You’ve got a sexy scientist there to deliver some of the technobabble. You have the city mayor who has his head up his butt, who refuses to acknowledge the danger coming to town. A couple of cute characters come in the form of an old blind woman, who doesn’t quite like the way the sky sounds these days, and the 7 year old girl who is a bit too nosy for her own good. There’s the aging horror great actor, here in the form of Robert Englund, who also fills out the required spot for the crazy mad scientist. Look for the Elm Street homage. You’ve seen this character before a hundred times, if you’ve seen him once. You know the type. He plays God, and before he knows it everything has gotten out of control. You have the unlikely hero. In this case it’s an exterminator who delivers lines like: “I can’t leave now. I’m the only exterminator this town’s got”. Don’t forget the hick town full of colorful characters. Throw in some black ops feds and a secret government weapons program trying to develop the next WMD, that’s weapons of mass dumbness. The CG f/x are mostly lame with the exception of some wasp close-ups through a glass pane in Englund’s lab. Now, these wasps don’t kill their victims. They turn them into George Romero zombies with wasp larvae that hatch and spread out from the person’s rotting animated body.
The truth is there’s just nothing at all to like about this disaster film. The dialog just could not have been written with a straight face or without copious amounts of booze. There’s a scene where a priest is infected with the wasps. He looks like a reject from a Night Of The Living Dead remake, and he’s spazzing out, releasing killer wasps from his mouth.
The mayor looks at him and says, “I’d like to hear your ideas on the Summer Youth Program”. The priest continues to grunt with boils all over his face. The Mayor continues with, “Father, are you all right?” after a few more grunts the Mayor shrugs his sholders and mutters, “It’s never easy”. It should be a crime to release this kind of thing after Mystery Science Fiction Theater went off the air.
Black Swarm is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. For such a recent production there is an exceptional amount of video noise here. It looks like compression artifact for the most part. Colors are actually quite bright and pop on occasion. Again, a prime example is the close-ups of the wasps, which do look pretty cool in the lab. Black levels are average at best. This likely looks as it did in its original non-HD broadcast. Honestly, it looks better at times than it deserves.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is extremely average. With all of these wasps swarming around, you’d think there was plenty of opportunity for some sweet surround action. You would be dead wrong. Dialog is pretty much all of this mix is good for. Unfortunately you can hear every lame word.
I’d love to see the original script. I’m curious as to what color crayon the 4 year old used. My guess is green or blue. Did they attempt to make a schlockfest here, or was this someone’s idea of a good film? Did it happen to be take your son or daughter to work day that week? Maybe junior got into the word processor that night at home. I guess it does pay to password protect those things. Avoid this one either at the video store or your favorite rental place. If you simply have to check it out, wait until The Sci-Fi Channel reruns it. If you do get stuck watching this crap on your television, keep telling yourself that it could be worse. “You could get tetanus from a rusty nail.”