Larva (2005), or My Dinner With SyFy

8 08 2009

I’ve watched the Sci-fi Channel as far back as I can remember. As soon as we had cable, my family was hooked. Every night my dad would check to see what was on, whether it was a horror movie, a sci-fi movie, or a fantasy movie. We were just hooked; it was the only consistent outlet for the strange and the fantastic out there. From Puppet Master to Blade Runner, the channel was a one-stop shop for the classics of the past and the present. It was a great time, and a perfect opportunity for me to get away from the humdrum when I needed to. But one day, something weird started happening; Sci-fi Channel started thinking that they knew what the people needed. So they stole the inspiration from on high and made their own movies, now infamously known as the Sci-fi Originals. They used the templates of theatrical movies they’d shown, only with less budget and quality. They were, and still are, known to be pretty bad overall, almost laughable. But enough people must watch these damn things, because they’ve been churning them out for over a decade now, and they seem to show no signs of slowing down. Larva, made in 2005, is one such Sci-Fi original about an outbreak of deadly parasites, and while not laughably bad, it almost makes it worse, because if you can’t laugh at how bad it is, it’s just bad.

Larva is about a town called Host (GET IT?!?!?!) in Missouri that has a dilemma. It’s a town that thrives almost exclusively on the beef industry, so when a strange parasite is found in the meat, a lone scientist wants to halt the distribution of this contaminated beef. He is soon put under scrutiny when his past is brought into question by almost all the members of the community, who believe he is trying to hurt their livelihood. Well, it turns out they should have listened to the scientist, because the infected beef has larva inside that grow into gigantic mutant bugs that are hungry for human flesh! Oh no! Can the lone scientist stop the bugs from killing the town with the help of an honest farmer and supermodel Rachel Hunter? Or will the cattle company silence them first in order to keep their name cleared?

Sound incredibly familiar? Company contamination cover-ups? Big bad bugs? An atypical amount of alliteration? Well, it’s all taken from other movies, pasted together, and sealed with a big Sci-fi “Original” sticker. It’s the cut-and-paste style of filmmaking that has been the channel’s hallmark for years. Pit lone attractive scientist against a soft-science monster, usually something larger than normal, add 50 minutes worth of dialog, 25 minutes of action, fill the rest up with cheap CG monsters, and BAM! Rinse and repeat.

Oh, and I forgot; also add superfluous has-been celebrity, i.e. former somebody Rachel Hunter. She is completely useless here, and I really don’t even know what she was doing. But motivations are for people with a budget! Fuck it! Anyway, Vincent Ventresca does an admirable job as THE LONE SCIENTIST. He’s a Sci-fi alum, believe it or not. For any fans of the short-lived series The Invisible Man, check him out here, going back to his roots. He’s not bad, but he can’t save this movie from itself, so the best he can do is keep himself afloat, which he certainly does. William Forsythe plays the farmer with a conscience who ends up being the only effectual person around V.V. by the end who isn’t a total asshole. Again, not bad, but too little too late unfortunately.

I could go on about the bad special effects, but I understand the budget constraints, so I won’t harp on that too much. Hell, some of the deaths were actually pretty good, and I looked forward to watching characters having chest-bursters poke out of them without a moment’s notice. What I will say is that the one saving grace of all these Sci-fi Originals is that the characters can at least turn the ship around and have some great interaction with each other while the script turns to ass all around them. But this one refuses to play ball with even that! Larva makes the cardinal mistake of having the lead and the romantic interest unappealing. The LAST thing I want to see on screen is two people forcing themselves to act romantic to each other like a kid pushing Barbie and Ken dolls together. That somehow makes it even more grueling to sit through, and it really turned me off to see V.V. and Rachel Hunter get together on-screen. It felt more mandatory than ancillary, simple as that, and I’d rather not even have romantic interest at all at that point.

I give no quarter to Larva. It had plenty of opportunity to veer off course and change direction for sunnier skies. But, like a movie I’ve watched for the second time, it stays locked to the rail like a fatalistic train of wishy-washy science and TV-14 death scenes. The acting was passing, the effects were good, but everything just felt too tired, to0 homogenized. It couldn’t stop itself from turning out bad, so I have no choice but to give Larva 4 chest-bursting parasites out of 10. R.I.P. delightful TV fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. We hardly knew ye.

Tomorrow we take a look at the POV thriller Quarantine!

And on a side note, what the fuck is the deal with Sci-fi Channel changing its name to Syfy? Does that sound outrageously stupid, or is that just me? They’re not even changing the name!!! It seemingly makes a mockery of people who can spell, and laughs in their faces like a lummox with a shiny new coin. It reminds me of a certain insightful sketch on a certain insightful show called Mystery Science Theater 3000:

In the irony of ironies, this episode was actually shown on the Sci-fi Channel! Back before it was… Syfy… urgh…




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