Monday, 3 November 2008

Locusts (2005)

This is pretty scary even without the locusts.

A swarm of locusts sweep through the USA, and only Xena: Warrior Princess can stop them! That's sounds pretty awesome, but unfortunately Lucy Lawless plays Dr. Maddy Rierdon, an expert working for the US Department of Agriculture. When we are introduced to her and her boyfriend, they are busy discussing their failing marriage in a state of near-nudity. He is upset because her demanding job means they have no time to themselves, let alone enough to start a family. "It's always food shortage this and locust swarm that! What about meeee?" When she is called away on her latest assignment he tells her not to come back until they've both decided what they want from the relationship. Complicating things is the fact that (spoiler) she discovers that she is pregnant (the pee-stick says "Pregnant" but she still goes to check the box just to make sure).

Dr. Peter Axelrod (John Heard) has secretly cross-bred the Australian Plague locust and the Desert locust to create a super-locust that is stronger, has a shorter gestational period, a longer lifespan and moves a lot faster. Oh, and it's resistant to all known pesticides. He tries to justify his research with some vague reference to cancer cures, but I think he just HATES vegetation. Rierdon fires him and orders the locusts destroyed, but unfortunately it seems they hired Butterfingers Inc., America's clumsiest pest control company. Consequently, some guy in a hazmat suit drops a couple of specimens down the drain (whoops) and then, halfway across the country, some other guy fumbles a container and lets a couple of them loose on the tarmac of an Air Force Base. Soon the tenacious little critters are free and breeding like crazy (how they swam through the sink's S-bend we never know), creating two separate swarms that ravage through the country's food supply.

So by now you've got a good idea of what to expect and you'd probably be right. A series of locust attacks ensue, where bad actors scream and flail as they are menaced by a CG locust swarm. They munch their way through California wine country (it looks like 2005 will be a very bad vintage) and a small-town orange festival, before descending on Pittsburgh and taking out a cargo aircraft by gumming up the engine with their tiny shredded corpses. They also menace a bunch of office workers in a high-rise building, demonstrating the surprising ability to bust through a plate glass window. Even Dr. Axelrod feels the bite of his own creation when his daughter's school bus is attacked by a locust swarm and she is knocked unconscious.

Meanwhile, military and government officials lock horns in a war-room as a big-screen computer simulation predicts doom and gloom. General Miller (Gregory Alan Williams) intends to capture the locusts' tiny hearts and minds through the use of VX nerve gas. As they repeatedly point out, his is the same deadly nerve gas which Saddam Hussein used on his own people. Rierdon manages to sabotage the mission by threatening to kill everyone on the aircraft, citing the fact that she is pregnant and hormonal and not be fucked with and thereby undoing fifty years of women's rights progress. Unfortunately it's only a matter of time before the President authorises the use of the nerve gas again, so Rierdon and company are in a race to discover an alternative solution before the General liberates the fuck out of the locusts and ten percent of the human population.

While tracking the swarm through the American heartland (the REAL America) Rierdon takes the opportunity to visit her corn-farming father and they manage to defeat an attacking locust swarm using nothing but a small generator, a steel silo, and a contempt for the laws of physics and the viewer's intelligence. They manage to apply this technique in a large-scale solution to the locust problem which defies belief. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of electricity or a functioning brain will feel profoundly insulted. If you enjoy having your intelligence repeatedly insulted then you will probably enjoy this film.

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