The Nest

Year: 1987
Production Co: Concorde Pictures
Director: Terence W Winkless
Writer: Robert King
Cast: Robert Lansing, Franc Luz, Lisa Langolis

There was a very distinctive and identifiable movement in straight to video 80s horror where a small industry of artists made movies look much more exciting, polished and scary on the VHS cover art than they actually were.

Apparently Lisa Langlois, who played the female lead Elizabeth, complained after the movie came out about the poster depicting her in her underwear (which she never appeared in on screen).

But what I objected to was that she was being attacked by a cockroach the size of a cocker spaniel. The movie very much follows the by-then established template of only showing the monsters-eye view, with the promise of showing it in all its makeup effects glory later on. Several scenes showed victims of the antagonists and various locales crawling with regular sized cockroaches, which I figured were the precursor to the giant sized queen bee (as it were).

But no, apart from an inventive sequence that's as scary as it is hilarious as a full sized man turns into a cockroach you have to see to believe (and which contains some gorgeous work by the effects team), the POV shots you're seeing from the monster aren't from giant cockroaches at all and there are none in the movie.

They're just regular sized roaches that have mutated to get a taste for flesh and blood (that's a bit of a spoiler, but it feels right to forewarn you so you're not disappointed).

Thankfully – and unexpectedly, given the era and genre – it's the characters you'll remember. It's written and performed with a tongue in cheek style that's very welcome and makes it enjoyable enough to watch despite the failed promise of the artwork.

So it's as cheap and silly as anything from this film movement, but while it's certainly not good, you won't be checking your watch the whole time.

Richard (Franc Luz) is the sheriff in a picture postcard seaside town where the insects are hitting the fan with cockroach infestations all over, right around the time his former girlfriend Elizabeth is returning after a long absence.

Things between them are prickly, firstly because Richard is now seeing the lady who works in the local diner, and secondly because Elizabeth apparently left town in a hurry years before and broke his heart in doing so.

He also has a fractious relationship with the town mayor Elias (Robert Lansing, exactly the kind of guy I imagined Tarantino was talking about in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, a former TV western, sci-fi or cop show star taking support parts in shlocky movies after his star's faded), who's also Elizabeth's father.

And she has a fractious relationship with her dad after her mother's suicide years before, one enshrouded in scandal and mystery.

Elias is also talking to a land development conglomerate about parcelling out portions of the town for condos, but attacks on the town's pets point to a deeper pest problem, so they send the fearless, robotic, stoic and very 80s-haired Dr Hubbard (Terri Treas) to investigate, a woman who knows more about why the roaches are behaving the way they are than she lets on.

How it all leads to the full sized cockroach man and the multi-body monster in the climax (was the rat king in The Last of Us II a nod to it?) doesn't make a lot of sense narratively but it's still fun enough to get there thanks to lively support characters around town.

Location trivia; the roach stronghold was shot in Bronson Caves, Los Angeles, site of the secret hatch where the batmobile emerged from the batcave in the 60s TV version of Batman.

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