Insectula! is the first film from writer/director Mike Peterson. Intended to be a parody/satire of 1950s/60s monster movies, it’s campiness and extremely low-budget spectacle is sure draw a large cult following.
Monster movies from the 50s/60s are very popular. At a time when the Cold War was in full swing and atomic energy new and mystical, filmmakers let their imagination run wild on screen. By today’s standards most of these films come across as silly, campy, hoaky, and over the top. What were cutting edge effects back in the day are now reserved for micro-budget and homemade movies. Dramatic scores were also a staple of the genre, often overshadowing the movie itself in scope and quality.
Insectula! tries very hard to pay homage to these movie of yesterday while at the same time exaggerating their inherent silliness. The movie is a mash between Roger Corman, Ed Wood and John Waters. Leaning heavily on it’s dramatic musical score and hamed up acting from the first scene to the last.
The premise revolves around a giant alien that crashes to Earth in search of food. It quickly draws the attentions of an EPA Agent, whose girlfriends keep getting eaten by the monster, and a mad scientist who sees the monster as an opportunity to destroy the world.
The concept is fantastic. The drawback is that the film takes almost an hour to actually get to the monster stomping around and destroying anything. The first two thirds of the movie are dedicated to establishing and satirizing backstory for the main characters, but the narrative often wanders off into the weeds losing itself along the way. There are laughs to be had and the general wackiness of the endeavor is enough to make you giggle at times but the film breaks the cardinal rule of storytelling – every scene, whether serious or silly, needs to move the story forward. The first two thirds of the film could probably be shaved down considerably to expedite the narrative without losing the satirical feel.
Insectula! tries too hard to make what is already an awkward and campy genre even more exaggerated. The acting is intentionally overdramatized to simulate the Corman era style and the score (while pretty darn good) is at the forefront for just about the entire movie. There are only a few scenes in which the music backs-off. A style choice for sure but I think it takes away from the film rather than adding to it.
The charm of the atomic era monster movies is that time has shaped the popular perception of the genre. Back in the day, monster movies may not have been seen as high level art but the filmmakers for the most part (Ed Wood excepted) tried to make serious and scary movies. Today the context under which the films were made is different making them come across to modern viewers as campy and fun rather than dramatic and scary. Had Insectula! dialed it down a notch and tried to make a semi-serious movie as opposed to a forced satire, the micro-budget special effects, cheese-ball acting and subject matter most likely would have created an end product much like what Insectula! was going for.
As a fan of early monster movies I completely understand what Insectula! is trying to do and I think it’s on the right track, just executed a little off the mark. I give writer/director Mike Peterson a lot of credit for getting this film produced and into the mainstream. Insectula! is clearly a labor of love and Peterson has a lot of talent and ingenuity. Trying to make a film with this kind of scope on a micro-budget is beyond difficult and while the movie itself may have missed the mark in a number of areas I’m sure it will gain a cult following as word of mouth spreads.