Director: Sébastien Vanicek Screenwriter: Sébastien Vanicek, Florent Bernard Cast: Théo Christine, Sofia Lesaffre, Jérôme Niel, Lisa Nyarko, Finnegan Oldfield, Marie-Philomène Nga Distributor: Shudder Running Time: 106 min. MPAA: Not Rated

The very thought of a spider horror movie is probably enough to make the skin crawl of anybody who finds themself shrieking over an arachnid in the bathroom or a web in the attic. Infested doesn’t rely on that easy mode of terror. This is the nightmare-mode spider movie that will most likely garner that largest and quickest “NOPE” from those with a bad case of arachnophobia. For those who won’t nope out of this picture, they’ll be in for a treat of one of the best spider-themed horror movies (for whatever that might be worth).

Set in a decaying French apartment complex, the bug-obsessed Kaleb (Theo Christine) is struggling for cash, but still finds the funds to keep his hobby going. His eye draws towards a rare spider he purchases and brings home to his buzzing complex of bootleg merchandisers, firecrackers going off, and intimidating residents. Amid all the feuding over legacy and wanting to escape this dire building, Kaleb’s spider gets loose. One spider turns into many. Those many turn into bigger creatures. It isn’t long before the whole building becomes consumed by web, scurrying spiders around every corner, and amassing in every dark hole.

The horror of Infested builds in the best ways. Even the first few spiders that grace the walls and floors are scary in their own right. The first discovery is made in the bathroom and there are two types of humans in this situation. There’s the one who cowers in the shower for the spider crawling up the walls and the one who tries to save the day by trapping the critter. What makes this scene extra scary is that it taps into the snaps of terror that befoul even the bravest of spider squashers/trappers. Despite the foreknowledge that this is no ordinary spider being trapped, there’s always that apprehension about finding the best way to trap a spider that can go from still to speedy in the blink of an eye. There’s always a fear that you’ll miss and the spider will crawl up your arm. And, yes, that moment of sudden shock does happen…a lot in this movie…and it managed to creep me out every time it happens.

The tension comes from far more than the spiders, although they’re perfectly showcased with great staging. There’s bigger concerns of the desperation in the residents trying to survive amid the law enforcement sealing off the building. The problems of poverty are given enough believability and depth to care for the plight of the old building. The actors are all in top form to embody this cramped and conflict-heavy environment that their conversations have remarkable realism. By the time the first batch of spiders start crawling out of vents and plumbing, there’s more than enough investment in hoping that not all the characters suffer the horrific fate of a spider down their throats. The creepy-crawlies are just as scary as the aggressive neighbor or the corrupt police force. Even the predictable moments of sadness when it’s clear one of Kaleb’s cohorts is going to become another casualty of the spiders, there’s some pain in their tearful facing of mortality.

Spider-horror movies don’t get much better than Infested. There’s so much going on here and all of it works, from the strong themes of urban decay to the personal plight of family to the common fear of spiders amped up to the highest degrees of terror. For those on a journey of getting over their fear of spiders, this movie is the final boss. If you find spiders the least the scary of creatures for a feature, this movie will probably change your mind. And if the mere thought of a wee spider skittering across your bathroom floor makes you want to lock yourself in the bedroom, you’ll probably never see this film. Even for being so used to spiders, I must admit that a film this intense had me briefly checking the shower drain and behind the toilet, a hallmark sign of a great horror film that’ll stick with you as long as the spiders currently in your basement waiting to come out in the darkness. Sweet dreams, readers.

You may also like