A fun cheapo horror romp that makes no claims to profundity but displays truly acerbic wit and a deep conversance with the genre, "Infested" sics swarms of mutant flies on a bunch of thirtysomething "whiny self-absorbed twits" and turns them into killer zombies.

A fun cheapo horror romp that makes no claims to profundity but displays truly acerbic wit and a deep conversance with the genre, “Infested” sics swarms of mutant flies on a bunch of thirtysomething “whiny self-absorbed twits” and turns them into killer zombies. In the best self-reflexive manner of post-modern horror pics, frosh helmer Josh Olson unleashes the subversive forces of an iconic ’60s movie, “Night of the Living Dead,” to wreak havoc on the conservative complacency of that ’80s granddaddy of yuppie angst pics, “The Big Chill.” Too low budget for multiplex auds, “Infested” could develop strong cult vid and cable followings.

Action begins as a circle of old school friends, reunited for a funeral, are forced to reexamine their lives by the younger girlfriend of the dead guy a la “Big Chill,” but familiarity with the original is by no means a prerequisite to relishing Olson’s savage dismantling of Lawrence Kasdan’s monument to neo-bourgeois self-importance. Olson gets lots of comic mileage out of his characters’ narcissistic self-absorption.

Nostalgically spinning old platters while locked in inanely pretentious conversations about “selling out,” yoga, the stock market and the ethics of “gotcha!” journalism, the group hardly notices when one of them suddenly collapses in fly-spewing convulsions.

The first clue of Something Really Wrong is glimpsed in long-shot through the window: As friends blather in the foreground, their fly-infested host tears off his own head and tosses it across the lawn — this catches their attention. “This isn’t normal!” exclaims the reporter among them.

There’s a clever double-whammy Hitchcock reference, as an unsuspecting woman takes a “Psycho”-type shower while flies slowly congregate in multiplying numbers on the bathtub rim like crows on a jungle gym. Obligatory genre convention of cutting victims off from help is given a yuppie spin when a malfunctioning cell phone causes its owner to wander onto a steeply sloping, zombie-surrounded roof to get a decent signal.

Shoestring production values add rather than detract from film’s underground flavor, with tacky digital f/x of flies deliberately crude but in line with satiric edge.

Infested

Production

A City Block Films production. Produced by Charles X Block. Executive producer, Philip Knowles. Directed, written by Josh Olson.

Crew

Camera (color), M. David Mullen; editor, David Wilson; music, Rodney Wittenberg; production designer, Addy McClelland; special makeup effects, Vincent J. Guartini; sound, Kami Asgar, Jose Torres; casting, Cathy Henderson, Dori Zuckerman. Reviewed at Hamptons Film Festival (View From Long Island), Oct. 18, 2002. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Zach Galligan, Lisa Ann Hadley, Daniel Jenkins, Amy Jo Johnson, Nahanni Johnstone, Robert Duncan McNeill, Jack Mulcahy, David Packer, Camilla Overbye Roos, Tuc Watkins, Mark Margolis.
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