Beyond the Slimy Wall: They Nest
By Stephanie Star Smith
February 28, 2005
We here at BOP are an eclectic group, and our tastes in movies run from the serious cinephiles to the foreign-film aficionados to niche film lovers. Thus was born the idea for this weekly column, devoted to horror films of all shapes and sizes, but concentrating on those B- and C-grade films that mainstream reviewers disdain, but are the bread-and-butter of every spook movie lover's viewing. So come with me as we venture beyond the slimy wall, uncovering the treasures - and burying the time-wasting bombs - that await those who dare to love the scare.
Animals-eating-people movies are always a hoot to watch. Not just cause it’s fun to see folks get et, but seriously; don’t we all harbor the sneaking suspicion in the back of our minds that one of these days, Mother Nature is going to open up a can of whup-ass on the human race as retribution for all the harm we’ve caused her and all creatures great and small? And when the animals are insects run wild, the effect is creepy as well as being a ripping yarn, because of all the creatures Mother Nature could unleash, uggy-bugs are the ones none of us would like to encounter, even without any of the genetic enhancements that seem to be part-and-parcel of insects-eating-people movies.
They Nest comes to us courtesy of USA Films, one of the last bastions of the schlock made-for-TV movie, once a staple of the category before all such flicks had to be Important Films about Serious Subjects because everybody wanted to be HBO. It concerns the one living creature that, save Keith Richards, scientists tell us can survive anything, including a nuclear holocaust: the cockroach. And these aren’t your garden-variety lurking-in-cardboard-boxes-waiting-to-be-taken-home symbol-for-extreme-filth cockroaches, either; something has happened - the film never makes clear exactly what - to turn these cockroaches into carnivores. So not only do they squick us out just by being, you know, cockroaches, but now they burrow deep into flesh instead of hiding behind our fridges.
I’ll give you all some time to let your skin stop crawling over that visual.
Now in addition to carnivorous cockroaches, you’ve also got your other AEP staples: the isolated location, in this case a remote island off the coast of Maine; your tortured lead character, here in the form of a young doctor who succumbed to the pressure of the ER and froze during an emergency; your feuding locals who barely trust each other, and who definitely don’t cotton to an outsider, which in turn leads to the no one-believes-the-danger-is-real subplot; and you’ve got your savvy local sheriff who tries to get the local politicos to listen to reason and pay attention to the evidence before It’s Too Late (and not the Carole King version).
It’s all great fun, and well done to boot. The effects are pretty damned good for what is basically a grade-C flick, and the cast is peopled with pretty young faces you’ve never heard of, alongside a few stalwart character actors to do the heavy thespian lifting. In fact, probably the most recognizable name and face belongs to Dean Stockwell, who does an admirable job with the savvy sheriff role (and who probably would’ve liked his hand-link at a couple points in this film). And the science walks that fine line between believability and “Oh, you have got to be kidding me!”
They Nest isn’t currently available on home video, but it shows up fairly frequently on the Sci-Fi Channel, which is not only affiliated with the USA Network but is itself one of those aforementioned last bastions, concentrating on the horror and SF end of the schlock scale. At two hours, including commercials, it’s more than worth setting your TiVo - or VCR, if you’re still stuck in the 20th century - to record They Nest next time it pops up. Oh, and it’s shown letterboxed, too, apparently the better to squick you out with.
And you might want to turn on all the lights next time you wander into the kitchen for a late-night snack. Just in case.
I see by the shadows falling from my bust of Pallas that our time is up. Until next time, then, when we will once again venture Beyond the Slimy Wall.