Infested // Rihanna been busy

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Even one spider is too many and the mere thought of just one skulking about, makes my skin crawl. I thought I had conquered this fear long ago but halfway through Infested, I was officially arachnophobic.

Kaleb (Théo Christine) is on the cusp of his 30th birthday, alienated from his sister (Lisa Nyarko) with whom he shares an apartment, and estranged from his best friend (Finnegan Oldfield). He has a penchant for collecting exotic animals and recently acquired a venomous new spider he affectionately named Rihanna. However, he quickly loses sight of her and she lays her eggs all over Kaleb’s apartment building. Their bites are fatal and they grow and multiply at an exponential rate. Along with a handful of neighbors, they must fight for their survival through the relentless arachnids’ attacks. Director, Sébastien Vaniček’s feature directorial debut will have its Shudder premiere on Friday, April 26th.

Along came a spider

Vermines (original French title meaning “vermin”) is the stuff that horror dreams are made of and what nightmares are built on. Vaniček has weaved a frightening world from a universal fear in the most claustrophobic of settings. Their apartment building is old and run-down, in one of Paris’ low-income banlieues. But a quick walk-through, paints an intricate portrait of the tightly weaved relationships of its tenants. As a result, families and friends live close to neighbors and they’ve developed a safe and comfortable community. Ultimately, all it takes is one loose spider, reproducing at a rate that puts the Aliens queen to shame, and all hell breaks loose. 

The word “vermin” in its original French title, is not lost and the social commentary is heavy. I appreciated the eye the director had on these people that are easily preyed on and set aside by society. Instead of focusing on their struggles, he showcased their strengths, passions, and hopes for better lives and their courage to keep trying.

Attack the Block

Infested is bound to draw comparisons to others that came before, like Arachnophobia and the great Attack the Block. But make no mistake, it is unquestionably one of the best creature films, all on its own. From the moment Rihanna tears her way to freedom, we know something terrible is going to happen. Who hasn’t lost sight of a spider in their home and immediately grew anxious as your mind wandered? Sooner than later, the pest will jump out at you when you least expect it. After seeing the first victim bit, and the rate these spiders reproduce, my skin was crawling. 

The cast is superb and the characters are likable. It’s easy to sympathize with the group. Kaleb, his sister Manon, Jordy (Oldfield) and friends Mathys (Jérôme Niel) and Lila (Sofia Lesaffre) soon find themselves alone and fighting to survive. Finally, the authorities abandon them, quarantined for their supposed safety, and cut off from outside communications. Consequently, they put their differences aside and work together to stay alive. Every moment builds with intensity as they shift from one tight space to the next. Cobwebs cover everything, killing one spider leads to the discovery of an innumerable amount more. There seems to be no escape. 

Burn it all to the ground

Infested is expertly shot, the writing is smart, and each scene moves fluidly, progressing with a startling quickness. The annoyingly unreliable lighting in the old building is a danger now. Additionally, every corner is covered in webs and the cramped halls seem to be closing in around them as they run out of places to run to and hide. I can feel my heart racing just thinking about it and I have been getting flashbacks from the stress as I write this. 

Okay, so the scariest environment imaginable. With no end in sight and no where to run, Kaleb and company are left in the trenches as they desperately and futilely attempt to escape through the endless labyrinth of spiders and their webs. Furthermore, did I mention that these spiders grow to the size of people? They don’t have a second to spare, a moment to catch their breath, or a safe spot to rest. The fear is palpable and contagious as one person falls victim and it spreads to the next.

It’s no small wonder that Sébastien Vaniček has been slated to direct the next installment in the Evil Dead franchise. I am already excited and you should be as well. Infested is the right stuff for genre fans. I couldn’t look away. I was stressed! Altogether, it’s a simple idea executed masterfully. Characters you can root for; Real people with real world problems. And an every day fear anyone can relate to. Moreover, we missed out on one helluva theatrical experience. But thanks to Shudder, we can all catch it at home, streaming this Friday, April 26th.