Nest, The (1988)
Release Date: May 13th, 1988 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Terence H. Winkless Actors: Robert Lansing, Lisa Langlois, Franc Luz, Terri Treas, Stephen Davies, Diana Bellamy, Nancy Morgan, Heidi Helmer
enetic engineer Dr. Morgan Hubbard (Terri Treas) heads INTEC Corporation’s experimentations to create cockroaches that can eat other roaches. The testing gets out of hand when the insects are loosed on North Port Island, where inexperienced sheriff Richard Tarbell (Franc Luz) is going through the motions to romance diner waitress Lillian (Nancy Morgan). To create an uneasy love triangle and a bit of extra plot, Mayor Elias Johnson’s (Robert Lansing) estranged daughter Elizabeth (Lisa Langlois) has just arrived back in town, quick to catch up with her ex-lover, who happens to be the very same new sheriff.
The only other character of mild importance is Homer (Stephen Davies), an exterminator with an attitude, serving as a counterpart to “Arachnophobia’s” pest controller, Delbert, played by John Goodman. Homer is hokier, doesn’t have a clever theme song, and not nearly as larger-than-life, though he still provides a warrior well equipped to take on an infestation. During the first half of the movie, a “Jaws” technique is used: the roaches are rarely seen, instead replaced by a low-angle camera rustling through the brush. But the second half kicks the creepy-crawlies into full gear by repeatedly showing shots of them swarming, piling on top of one another, and clinging in clumps to various sets. As the townsfolk are slowly (then quickly) consumed, it’s revealed that the mutant cockroaches have the ability to become hybrids of whatever they eat. This silly concept leads to cat-roaches and human-roaches, along with a monstrous “queen” bug that uses a hive-mind control to consolidate its troops (not entirely unlike “Aliens” the following year).
With roach shakes, roaches on toast, roaches and fries, roaches swimming in coffee mugs, and roaches tumbling into the opening of an incapacitated woman’s leg cast (there must be a phobia for this sort of thing), there are plenty of skin-crawling moments to appease horror film enthusiasts. Perhaps most unsettling of all is the violence toward animals: first, a dog is eaten alive, leaving a bloody carcass as evidence; then, a cuddly little kitten is thrown into a cage to serve as bait for the killer insects. This second act is particularly cruel, since the evil scientist purposely chooses a helpless animal over her original choice of a slab of butchered meat. Although this picture was made in 1988, one wonders whether any real animals, including roaches, were harmed during the making.
“The Nest” is no masterpiece, but the gore and makeup effects make it worthy of a viewing. Gooey egg sacks hang from a cave like diseased testicles, sharp mandibles erupt from a man’s face, and an eyeball pops out of a head – only to be squashed underfoot like a pivotal moment in “Kill Bill: Vol. 2.” All of the horror is tinged with unintentional humor, but the squirm factor is still fairly high. The use of real cockroaches for most of the close-ups is still unquestionably effective for squeamish audiences. Sadly, the impressive poster art, featuring a woman in underwear being ravished by a monstrous arthropod, is clearly of a concept nowhere to be found in the film (and it’s a shrewdly lurid throwback to the eroticized advertising materials of “The Food of the Gods”).
– Mike Massie