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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Bugbaby (2010)

Director: Rebecca Lorenne
Stars: Lara Fisher, Jared Martzell, Mink Stole
This film was an official selection at the 7th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2011. Here's an index to my reviews of 2011 films.
It's utterly obvious that co-producers Rebecca Lorenne (who also directed) and Dan Spurgeon (who also wrote the script) are fans of John Waters. Casting Mink Stole as a busybody adoption agency prude is a giveaway, but the darkly comedic tone, kitsch fifties Americana setting and 'adventurous' approach to mass murder are quintessential Waters too. Add in throwaway references to flipper babies, Communism and dialogue such as, 'People like you make me sick!' and you might be surprised to see anyone else's name on Bugbaby. However, Waters isn't the only influence; Peter Jackson's Braindead is another film that springs to mind. It was set in the same era, albeit on the other side of the world from Baltimore, in which most Waters pictures are set, but simultaneously being far more polite and far more bloody. The title character, the mostly unseen MacGuffin of the piece, is Samson, a six week old baby who reminded me in many ways of Selwyn, the bizarre zombie baby in Braindead.

Whatever their influences, Lorenne and Spurgeon conjured up a delicious slice of fifties apple pie with a thoroughly average couple whose baby is anything but. We discover that fact before the the memorable title reaches the screen in just as memorable a fashion, captured with great timing right before six week old Sammy grabs Mrs Johnson's cat as a pre-dinner snack. There are plenty of hints here as to how odd Sammy is, hints which continue throughout the movie even though the title gives it all away. He's less of a baby and more of a bug. His parents, the Gregorys, aren't even convinced he's human, though Mrs Tottifot from the adoption agency, has a lot more tolerance (or blind devotion to all children). They've invited her over because things are getting a little out of hand, but of course we ain't seen nothin' yet. Out of hand is a mild euphemism for where things end up, in delightfully horrible fashion. If Mink Stole says, 'It's positively disgusting!' you just know that it's going to be hilariously wrong.

Bugbaby won the Best Horror Short award at the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival, though it's not as strong as that might suggest. It was a weaker year for horror shorts, though conversely it was a strong one indeed for horror features. The chief joys are in the setting, which gets increasingly surreal, and in the dialogue, which remains blissfully happy throughout, regardless what calamities descend on the Gregory house. These are well fleshed out, the pastel colours and little background details a solid grounding for the insanity that erupts. However we don't see much of Sammy, just hints here and there with a few Sammycam shots from his compound eyes, and there's only a modicum of mangling. Would a few gallons of gore have hurt the film? I doubt it, especially with filmmakers this capable to put them to good use. I also wanted to know what happened next. There's surely a full feature in the next ninety minutes, but it has to play out in our head. We can fever dream, right?

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