Before I go on trips I download movies to watch on the plane, and I have to say I like the democratizing effect of the 99-cent rentals on iTunes. There you find less popular movies or those that have gone direct-to-DVD, which in some cases can be real undiscovered gems [like one of the others I found there, druggie heist comedy High Life]. And often, as in this case, what makes them less appealing to the idiotic masses, resulting in them ending up here, is precisely that they are more interesting and quirky and not hyper market-tested to appeal to the greatest number of 14-25 year olds. Add that we're talking about a movie centered on attacks by giant bugs, and you've got a winner.
We meet our hero Cooper as he walks to the job his father got him, late, making excuses. He is bumped by a car because he wandered into the street yakking on his cell phone, and of course, blames the driver. He gets to work and is immediately called into his boss' office, although he tries to get out of it by pretending to work. She plays him back one of his own customer calls, in which he is just trying to get the customer off the phone, and she fires him. Then there's a high-pitched squeal, and they all pass out.
They awaken, covered in webbing. Cooper goes and wakes up his boss, then soon has to fight off a giant beetle. They continue to wake others. The boss wants to find her daughter, who turns out to be right outside. They no sooner wake up the daughter when a winged variety of the bug swoops down and carries mom away. They also happen upon a blonde weathercaster from the local news, and the janitor from their building.
Back inside they battle a few more bugs, then formulate a plan. They have realized that the bugs are blind and find victims by sound. The janitor got stung by one of the flying versions, and no one knows what this is going to mean. All of this is handled with a comedic tone, making fun of Cooper being a clueless loser who keeps coming on to Sara, the bosses daughter, just because she's pretty and you're supposed to come on to pretty girls. The bug attacks are also lighthearted [although simultaneously quite violent and gross], and the newscaster is also played for laughs for her lack of intelligence, but also seriously as she handles stress by seeking refuge in the fact that she can turn men on.
They decide to go outside and visit each of their houses to check for relatives, on the way to the home of Cooper's father, who has a fallout shelter in his basement. Soon they encounter a new creature, which is a person that has sprouted insect legs and works as a drone, arranging bodies into neat little piles. If you suspect this is the fate that might befall those stung in the back, well, why do you always have to be right?
Making it to Cooper's dad's house introduces Ray Wise--who will always be Leland Palmer to me--as his cantankerous, emasculating, dismissive Army dad, and source of comedy. He is always cutting Cooper down, and being comically spiteful to him, such as a funny little moment in which the dad is spattered with bug juice. Cooper has no sooner remarked that he didn't get any on him when his father reaches over and smears some across his mouth. This last section organizes itself around Cooper finding his voice and gaining the respect of his dad, and manning up to go save Sara, who has been taken away by a flying insect. Cooper leads a charge to invade the nest and save her, winning her love and earning Dad's esteem. Little comic bits continue as they discover, at a crucial moment, that the detonator vital to their plan is out of batteries.
It wasn't great--you can see why it went direct-to-DVD--but it's better than it had a right to be. This is the movie, with the balance of seriousness, comedy and B-movie homage, that Eight-Legged Freaks was trying to be. You get the fun of giant bug attacks and characters who are comically despicable, with enough seriousness, darkness as character arcs to give you something to chew on when the thrill wears off. I think we all face that moment in life where a giant killer bug movie is what's required, and at that moment, this movie is there to admirably fill the bill.
If you want a contemporary thriller-comedy about giant bug attacks, this will stand you in good stead.