What is it with Roger Corman and fishing villages, anyway? I swear to God he just loves to fuck with these places in his productions. Okay, yeah, for Humanoids From The Deep the setting made sense, given that it was a flick about horny killer sea creatures and all that, but for a movie about giant bloodthirsty mutant cockroaches — I dunno, wouldn’t New York or someplace have made more sense?
Still, sending a film crew out to New York or some other major metropolis known for its large and aggressive roach population would cost money, I suppose, and money is something our guy Roger would rather make than spend, so when it came time to roll the cameras for the film under our metaphorical microscope today, 1988′s The Nest, he packed up all the folks and equipment he’d need to do the job from his Venice, California lumberyard-turned-studio/offices, sent them upstate under the watchful eye of firs-time director (and co-screenwriter of The Howling, along with John Sayles) Terence H. Winkless, and told ‘em all to come back with something he could do one of his typical late-’80s “yeah, we’ll release it to a few theaters right here in the neighborhood but home video is where most of the action for this one is gonna be found” numbers on.
To his credit, Winkless put together a pretty solid cast for this one — Franc Luz stars as local sheriff Richard Tarbell, who’s in charge of putting the mutant roach infestation plaguing his sleepy seaside community down ; Lisa Langlois plays Elizabeth Johnson, his former (and perhaps future) love interest , who comes back to town at the worst possible time; Robert Lansing turns up as her possibly-corrupt father, who just so happens to be the mayor; Terri Treas is tasked with the role of Dr. Morgan Hubbard, a mad scientist working for the dastardly (or at least amoral) INTEC corporation who has overseen the creation of these flesh-eating monstrosities herself; and Stephen Davies is on hand as poor, hapless Homer, the hard-working local pest exterminator who discovers the problem first but who, of course, no one else listens to until it’s far too late.
The real stars here, though, are the special effects guys (and possibly gals) — especially once the roaches take on the ability to mimic the characteristics of whatever they eat (via means of some DNA transference process that’s never suitably explained but doesn’t really matter, anyway). The final 30-or-so-minutes of The Nest are an absolute make-up and prosthetics tour de force, and a case study in why “real” effects work — even of the low-budget variety — will always trump CGI (not that they had much of that back in ’88, but whatever). The human/roach hybrid creatures are absolutely, gruesomely spectacular — even if they never actually mount any nubile young bra-and-panty-clad women as shown in the poster (although there is a decent amount of nudity and near-nudity on hand here, so you can relax on that score).
So yeah — the creature effects are definitely the “cake” as far as things go here, but there’s some pretty decent “icing,” too, in the form of some — believe it or not — genuinely involving character drama, nicely-shot exteriors and interiors that give the proceedings a real sense of place, and even a pleasingly fair amount of actual suspense thrown in for good measure. All in all, this is a much better film not only than you’d think going in, but probably than we’ve got any right to expect given the people, and the budget, behind it.
The Nest is available from Shout! Factory’s horror-centric Scream Factory imprint as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack that is, curiously enough, not labeled as part of their “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” line for whatever reason. Both discs feature a crisp and clean anamorphic widescreen picture with mono sound (with the Blu-Ray in this case both looking and sounding considerably better) and a feature-length commentary track from director Winkless. There are no other extras to speak of, which is kind of a bummer, but doesn’t detract too terribly much from a movie that any fan of the kind of shit we usually talk about around these parts will be proud to have on their shelves. Sit back with a full can of Raid handy and enjoy.