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Monday, 18 August 2014

Earwigs (2010)

Director: Bruce Legrow
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.
Regular attendees of genre film festivals may be excused for believing that there's a rule nowadays that requires the first film in a set of horror shorts to be a fake trailer for an outrageous throwback of a movie. Earwigs would certainly fit that bill magnificently, not least because it was made specifically for a trailer contest called Silver Wave, but at the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in 2011, it opened up a set of sci-fi shorts instead. Hey, fifties monster movies were horror and sci-fi all at the same time, so I'm not complaining. From that single comment, though, if you have any background in the genre, you'll be able to visualise precisely what Bruce Legrow does with his two minutes. The bad news is that there's nothing else here, but the good news is that he does it very capably indeed. His anonymous actors don't just act the part, they look the part too, well cast as the stereotypes we expect and it's not difficult to figure out how the imaginary movie that Legrow never made to expand upon the trailer would play out.

Just in case we don't have that background, there's a synopsis online that goes a lot deeper. The scientist working on a serum to alter the human brain and unleash its 'full potential for empathy and compassion' is Dr Rutherford, who has a calamitous home life with a gossip of a wife. Once he adds in a 'caring gene' from an earwig, 'the great mothers of the solitary insect world', he's ready to leave it all by drinking the serum with his sexy assistant, Diana, so they can start 'a new loving life together'. She baulks though, so it's only Rutherford who turns into a giant earwig, prowling the city for women with whom to create a new family and using his newly acquired psychic powers to capture them and turn them into mindless slaves. Meanwhile, Private Buck, Diana's boyfriend, is eager to save her and gets his chance as the military take on the giant earwig's lair, a conveniently abandoned barn on the edge of town, with tanks and artillery. Well, they might be Communists, right?
Legrow does well in capturing the essence of fifties monster movies, even if the overblown advertising he slathers onto the screen is obviously digital rather than analogue. Other than that minor slip, the details are strong. It's shot in 16mm with costumes and cars that look appropriate for the era. Either he and his crew sourced well from thrift stores and antique shops or they built glorious props like the general's huge field telephone with an astute eye for detail. Even the anomalies are mostly appropriate, like the young lady in her nightgown who is tormented outside for no apparent reason. The only one that seems a little out of place is the parade of villagers with torches and pitchforks, which ought to fit far better within an homage to Universal horrors than sci-fi B movies. The stock footage, with inevitably different grain, is a nice touch, as I've seen that many times. The lighting, the subservient women, the use of garbage sacks as costumes, all help to add authenticity to the piece. Hey, I'd definitely watch this feature!

Earwigs can be watched for free on YouTube.

More details can be found in Robert Hood's article, There's a New Bug in Town, where you can also hear the film's amazing theme tune, My Baby Left Me for an Earwig by the Hot Rod Daddy Oh's.

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