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Mosquito
(1995)
 

Director: Gary Jones            
Cast:
Gunnar Hansen, Ron Asheton, Steve Dixon


When you get the opportunity to review a movie with a title like Mosquito, you start to think of bad puns and snappy statements to make before The mosquitoes cast for this movie were method actorseven seeing the movie. Declarations like "It sucked", "Don't be sucked into watching it", "It bites", "I was really bugged by it", and "A little prick of a movie" fill your head, and make you almost determined to hate the movie when you actually sit down and see it. In my case, not only did I have that problem to deal with, but I also had another kind of immediate bias against Mosquito, though one of a more personal nature. You see, years earlier I had seen another giant mosquito movie - Skeeter - and I found it so bad that its awfulness still haunts me to this day. So needless to say, I was certainly not looking forward to encountering more giant mosquitoes in a movie. In fact, the only reason why I picked this particular Big Bug movie to review for this roundtable was, well, there aren't that many Big Bug movies that are also unknown movies, so I didn't have that much choice. And I refused to subject myself to Skeeter again.

At the same time, I realized that both of those negative trains of thought going through my mind were very unfair. So I knew in order to approach the movie with an unbiased mind, I had to do some positive counter-thinking. First, I reminded myself of how I enjoyed another '90s big insect movie, Ticks, a cheap and cheesy exercise but one that was full of enthusiasm in every department. Second, looking at the cast listed on the video box I noticed Gunnar Hansen from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre amongst the listed actors. Turning over the box, I then saw this blurb: "From Sci-Fi Master, Andre Blay, Executive Producer of The Blob, Prince Of Darkness, and They Live and the special effects team of Batman Returns, Evil Dead III, and Darkman, comes nature's most horrifying thriller!" (sic) Though awkwardly written, the blurb did seem to suggest the movie had promise, even though it didn't explain why these Hollywood pros had gone from doing major Hollywood studio films to doing a low-budget direct-to-video movie. Anyway, I felt properly unbiased after taking all of that in, so I felt prepared to properly judge Mosquito. Alas, all my preparation was for nothing, because after a promising start the movie soon degenerates into a state of tedium that not even someone previously convinced the movie would be great would find the proceedings of much value. At least it's not as downright bad as Skeeter, which I guess counts for something.

One positive thing that can be said right from the start about Mosquito is that the catalyst that it uses to have these particular insects grow to gigantic size is not only no dumber that usual, it's actually pretty original. And as fantastic as it is, you can almost believe it could happen. In the opening sequence, a large extra To figure out you're in the middle of a bad movie, you don't need a detectorterrestrial spacecraft launches a smaller manned (uh, make that "aliened") vessel towards earth. However, something goes wrong during the descent and the vessel crash-lands into a swamp in some national park in the United States, and the alien occupants of the vessel are killed. Though dead, their bodies are still attractive to the area's mosquito population, so... well, if you put two and two together, you'll quickly see how that quickly adds up to gigantic mosquitoes buzzing around the national park. Now that the setting and the why & how of the mosquitoes has been properly set up, the only thing left to do in this paragraph is to list this particular giant insect's lineup of colorful characters who find themselves battling bugs. Naturally one of them needs to be a scientist, and Dixon plays an Air Force scientist looking for what appeared to be a meteor. We also need comic relief, so Asheton (of the band The Stooges) gives this contribution by playing the park's horny and goofy park ranger. Every movie of this nature also needs one of the member of the imperilled threatening danger towards the others, so we have Earl (Hansen), an armed bank robber on the run with his idiot kin. Another requirement is to have two of the characters either romantically involved right at the start, or soon finding themselves in love. The former option happens here, with newly-hired park ranger Meg being accompanied by her boyfriend Ray to her new job.

At least, I assume that they are supposed to be the couple in love, because there sure isn't a heck of a lot of chemistry going on between these two characters. This might explain why initially the movie seems to have set them up as the primary characters, but quickly changes its focus upon realizing they have even less spark than your typical brother and sister. Actually, after deciding to change its focus, the movie for the longest time seems absolutely clueless on what direction it should go in. We are subsequently introduced to the goofy park ranger, and we spend a substantial amount of time with him as he gets orders to fog the lake area with insecticide, leading to a "comic" sequence where he sprays the campers and their food with the stuff; ah, pure hilarity. Then he disappears and doesn't reappear until much later. We are then suddenly introduced to the scientist creeping around in the woods, and before we find out who he is and what he is doing, he disappears, and we have to wait until later to find out. We then meet Earl and his idiot kin as newly arrived visitors to the park, but we are initially given no clue as to why these militia-like rednecks are here. They just seem to be there at this moment so that there can be a mosquito attack, though it's hard to feel anything when you know nothing about these guys. Then they disappear from the movie for a long time.

It's not until (much later) that all of these major characters find themselves together, and only then does the movie start flowing at a relatively comfortable flow. Until then, Mosquito comes across as a series of scenes that at times almost seem to have been taken out of other movies, then Now *that's* exploitation!edited together with the skill of someone with a stapler. Not just with scenes of these principle characters, but some with minor characters that I didn't mention, ranging from the dumb ranger's boss to several one-scene-only characters that only appear so that the movie will have an acceptable body count for splatterholics. Though even when the narrative flow stops being so ragged, the second half of the movie is not much of an improvement. For one thing, these characters for the most part still don't grab our attention and respect. Steve Dixon is the exception, somehow making his intelligent but somewhat bland scientist character likeable. (He also has the rare honor of playing one of the few black characters in a horror movie that don't get killed.) Asheton, on the other hand, is incredibly aggravating as the "hilarious" ranger, spending much of the second half of the movie in a "look at me!" panicked state, talking and blubbering at a rapid pace. Though Hansen at this point is no longer overshadowed for various reasons by the actors playing his idiot kin and exhuming familiar stuff like the "I didn't know it was loaded!" routine, he still doesn't stand out. He only seems to be putting out the bare minimum amount of energy in every scene, and not even the reappearance of something that made him a legend among horror fans (and that he subsequently uses during a time of crisis) seems to pick up his visible mood.

Not only is this supposed rampage lacking the expected gutso, but the entire climatic sequence - obviously inspired by Night Of The Living Dead - is somehow is lacking a certain spark to make it both exciting and stand out from everything that lead up to it. There's certainly a lot of running around and screaming, plus plenty of instances of direct combat between man and mutated beast... but it all somehow comes across as ordinary, even familiar stuff. Part of this may come from the fact the movie's almost vignette-like structure did not allow a slowly building feeling of terror and danger to build up and become strong enough at this point. But often than not, there almost seems to be a conscious decision by the director to not go for broke when the proper opportunity comes across, instead choosing to do so at the worst times. Stumbling across a blood-drained body, or hanging for dear life from the door of a speeding camper comes across as a matter of fact, but during calmer moments the characters will act all screwball, accented by blaring comic music on the soundtrack. Still, the directorial style is not completely inept. There are some amusing blink-and-you'll-miss-it gags, such as when a boyfriend heading to his screaming girlfriend takes a lightning-quick swig of his beer while running to the rescue. Also, some more dramatic moments are decently presented, the best being the scene when the characters come across the remains of the public campground; the sheer scale of the destruction and its sober presentation is extremely impressive.

The horror elements happen to be the best things about Mosquito, primarily the portion concerning the special effects. There are definitely a few instances of them when they are not up to snuff, even for a low budget B-movie; several shots showing a swarm of these giant mosquitoes were accomplished by some really bad superimposing, so bad that even legendary director Bert I. Gordon (The Amazing Colossal Man) would be embarrassed by. Otherwise, the special effects are better than they have any right to be. The modelwork for the U.F.O.s at the beginning of the movie I would even Odd than in an inferior chainsaw massacre, Hansen would choose to be unmaskedconsider to be excellent. Gore-wise the movie serves up a perfectly acceptable amount of blood and guts, ranging from blood shooting out of pierced eyeballs to flying guts coming out of the crushed and shot-up giant mosquitoes. And the giant mosquitoes themselves? They're pretty good as well. Instead of going the easy way out by computer-generating the insects, the special effects artists went the old-fashioned way, with puppetry and stop-motion animation. While these effects certainly won't fool anyone into thinking these are real giant mosquitoes, the fact that these creations are actually "solid" makes them look more "real" than had digital bits been used. Sure, it's easy to see that these puppets are not actually flying despite their flapping wings, but are instead being held up by an invisible line that's sliding down a horizontal wire. But in the context of low-budget exploitation, it actually works. These effects were mostly done with seriousness, but the loose threads that show give the movie just the right touch of welcome campiness that makes them amusing, as well as serving its basic purpose. The threads show in just the right ways, and are shown to us just briefly enough so this amiable feeling doesn't come across as forced. In fact, this technique is just what was missing from how the rest of Mosquito was handled, making it one of the rare times the director should have taken his cue from the special effects department instead of the other way around.

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See also: A*P*E, Crocodile, Ticks

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