The quiet town of North Port is being overrun by cockroaches! Sheriff Tarbell (Franc Luz) believes that genetic experiments being conducted by the INTEC Corporation are the cause. Confronted with a potential disaster, Mayor Johnson (Robert Lansing) calls for help. When Dr. Hubbard (Terri Treas) from INTEC arrives, she realizes that an innocent experiment has gone terribly wrong. Ordinary cockroaches are turning into creatures with a taste for blood. Worse, the roaches are genetically mutating... literally becoming whatever they eat!
Feeding off the general public's pre-existing loathing and disgust of the six-legged pest, 'The Nest' is a squirm-inducing, skin-crawling bucket of badness that will have you laughing at the sight of mutant roaches. It's intended to make audiences cower in fear as a small New England town's insect infestation grows to an uncontrollable proportion, but it works much better and is far more entertaining as a comedy. Granted, once those bugs start swarming every inch of the otherwise quiet community, fidgeting and worming about in your seat is a natural response, but it's nothing that will likely overrun your dreams or make you turn on all the lights in the house, dreading to find the insects in your kitchen.
Not too surprisingly, this low-budget creature feature comes from Roger Corman's production company but was produced by his wife, Julie. Once you see the Concorde Pictures banner during the opening credits, you have some reasonable estimation of what to expect — plenty of silly attempts at horror which actually fail to horrify. But as is typical of the company as well, we get plenty of amusing surprises along the way, starting with the large number of creepy-crawlies seen everywhere. It almost makes you wonder who actually keeps and maintains this many bugs because at one point, they appear to number in the hundreds.
A toilet tank becomes a haven for the invading critters and another bathroom scene shows the bugs crowding every inch of the floor. The blender, microwave and spatula are the only weapons of choice when the vermin wreak havoc inside the town's local diner. That sequence, in particular, is the production's nastiest moment as real roaches are sacrificed for those couple minutes of mild suspense. The real highlight of this B-movie, however, comes from the wildly imaginative special effects by James M. Navarra.
These biologically-altered roaches have acquired a hankering for flesh, and they run amok in swarms to feed on cats, dogs and humans alike. Several of the mutilated limbs and props look like the sort you find anywhere in Halloween stores, which adds to the movie's gut-busting hilarity. But other practical effects, especially the hilarious hybrid monstrosities in the second half, are genuine shockers that exceed expectations and make the movie a reasonably entertaining watch.
Based on the horror book by Gregory A. Douglas (pseudonym for Eli Cantor), the plot follows the town's sheriff, Richard Tarbell (Frank Luz), as he accidentally stumbles upon the evil mutant experiments performed by the mysterious corporation, INTEC. All the meanwhile, he rekindles a romance with high school sweetheart Elizabeth Johnson (Lisa Langlois) after a four-year hiatus. Local "pest control agent" Homer (Stephen Davies) plays the comic relief as a clown-like buffoon while also offering his services in exterminating the island's infestation. At the same time, Elizabeth's father (Robert Lansing), who also happens to be the mayor, tries to work with the corporation's scientist and mutant-roach creator (Terri Treas, which fans will recognize as Cathy Frankel of the 'Alien Nation' series) to salvage whatever remains of his town.
The whole story has a generic and familiar feel to it, as if assembled from the parts of other movies. I suppose this shouldn't be much of surprise since it comes from the Corman production family. It's practically their bread-and-butter method of making cheaper versions and knock-offs of more successful films. Although the setting and background comes directly from the book, 'The Nest' still feels like a cut-rate imitation of Spielberg's 'Jaws,' particularly when characters talk about impending tourists just as trouble is starting to brew. Being a creature feature, the movie has that 1950s cheesy quality to it while also striving to align itself with the graphic 1980s slasher variety. The characters are both archetypal, especially in Treas's mad scientist, and unique, which is both humdrum and entertaining.
'The Nest' is a strange brew of creepy-crawly horror and unintentional comedy, making it watchable but also forgettable. Enthusiasts of such obscurity genre fare will enjoy it, but the easily squeamish will want to watch with the lights on to ensure that's a potato chip their crunching on and not something else.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout! Factory brings 'The Nest' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack under the distributor's Scream Factory line. The Region A locked, BD25 disc is housed inside the normal blue case with a second DVD-9 disc on the opposing panel. At startup, the disc goes to a main menu selection on the left side of the screen with full-motion clips and music.
Considering its low-budget origins, 'The Nest' infests Blu-ray with a respectable 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. The 1.78:1 picture frame displays good contrast levels with clean whites although for a majority of the runtime, it's pretty average with a few less than satisfying moments. Blacks could be a tad stronger, but for the most part, they are adequate for a movie of this age. Shadows are somewhat milky and foggy, but delineation in the darkest portions remains clear. A thin layer of natural grain is always visible though it's more prominent in some scenes than others. Colors are not very exciting, yet they're accurate with healthy skin tones. In general, fine object and textural details fall on the softer side, which are likely the result of the original photography, but definition and resolution is consistent and acceptable.
All in all, the high-def transfer looks good with little to complain about.
The low-budget creature feature fares a bit better in the audio department than in the video though it's still fails to impressive much.
In spite of what the menu options appear to offer, I was only able to play the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono soundtrack, which is actually fine by me. Dialogue is clear and crisp in the center while background activity is discrete with excellent off-screen effects. Imaging feels wide with good fidelity, providing the movie with a good sense of presence and clarity. Bass is adequate and appropriate, giving the design's age and limited production value. The only real issue of complaint is with the lackluster mid-range and the generally flat acoustical detailing, creating an overall even and uniform soundstage. Of course, this has more to do with the original design and not a fault of the codec. Other than that, the lossless mix is fine and suitable to the film's enjoyment.
From Roger Corman's production company, 'The Nest' is a strange brew of creepy-crawly horror and unintentional comedy, making it watchable but forgettable. What it lacks in scares and frights, it makes up in creative special effects and plenty of spine-tingling visuals of bug everywhere. The Blu-ray arrives with a mildly satisfying but acceptable audio and video presentation while the supplements are largely exterminated. Enthusiasts of such obscurity genre fare will enjoy it, but the easily squeamish will want to watch with the lights on to ensure that's a potato chip their crunching on and not something else.