INSECTULA! So Bad It’s Good

Insectula! is another “so bad it’s good” film harking back to bygone times, this time all the way to the 1950s.

Jarosław Kowal

29 October 2023

I don’t remember the last time I went to the cinema for a horror film. Perhaps this doesn’t bode well for someone who professes an unconditional love for the genre, but what’s scarier to me than the remake of “Poltergeist,” found footage evoking less emotion than a tape from a rural wedding, or the eightieth installment of Saw, is the boundless stupidity in reproducing clichés. Apparently, modernity has little to offer even to independent filmmakers – Insectula! is another “so bad it’s good” film harking back to bygone times, this time all the way to the 1950s.

Michael Peterson’s debut overtly refers to Them! – one of the first films in the history of cinema featuring giant insects. While some initial scenes set on an alien planet may be off-putting due to the quality of digital special effects (where even Sharknado deserves an IMAX screening), the decisive majority of the hundred-minute venture provides top-notch entertainment. Call me old-fashioned, but a CGI green soul onto which you can overlay anything will never stir my emotions as intensely as a pathetic piece of rubber pretending to be a cosmic creature. In Insectula!, these two worlds of visual tricks clash in a brutal, sometimes jarring contrast, and only moments like a survey of a severed head full of insects allow me to overlook the shortcomings of computers compared to the imaginative minds of engineers.

The film’s music is equally strong. In the Z-class, electronic sounds usually dominate – cheap, fitting perfectly into the tastes of those raised on John Carpenter, and any adjustments/additions don’t require significant time investments or the involvement of a multitude of musicians. However, Peterson decided to fully capture the spirit of the times. The sound generated by the orchestra (though most likely synthetic) perfectly fits the character of the film, and the piano solo of the main character creates a poignant atmosphere, reminding us that music in film is not just background, even if this film is associated with a Prusakolep macro-scale advertisement. There are moments when consistency is lacking (for example, the “romantic” scene with smooth jazz saxophone), but apart from these few deviations, Insectula! can boast one of the best Z-class soundtracks created in recent years.

Peterson dedicated nearly five years to realizing his fantasy, involving his wife, daughter, and many friends in the production. At times, the budget clearly fell short, at other times, the acting skills were lacking, and the plot has so many holes that Matthew McConaughey aboard the Endurance could travel through them to the other end of the galaxy, but all shortcomings are forgiven when you feel the infectious passion for the work of Jack Arnold or Ed Wood. However, cutting Insectula! by fifteen minutes would have been beneficial, especially if those were the final minutes. The final battle between earthly forces and insects draws heavily from the “masterpieces” like Sharknado or Mega Shark vs. Kolossus and drastically falls short of the level of the rest of the film. I understand that the director wanted to convey the horror of the battle against extraterrestrial insects, but I assure you that finding a spider in your own bed would evoke more emotions.

In times when monsters come to life almost exclusively through computers, it’s worth reaching for a production that at least partially pays homage to the genre’s beginnings. Insectula! is not perfect, and yet few productions of a similar class can compete with it.