Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Larva (USA, 2005)

Hmmm, if this is a TV film, TV films sure have changed a lot since I used to live in the USA. OK, there is no T&A in the flick, but it ain't exactly blood-lite when it comes to the exploding guts. Way back when Alien (1979) came out, everyone raved about the famous scene in which the lil' alien comes a-bursting out of John Hurt's stomach; well, that scene be kiddy fodder in comparison to the exploding guts in this movie. In all truth, this little 96-minute-long sucker is almost exactly what a low-budget b-film should be: fast, uncomplicated and good.
Sure, it ain't no existentialist masterpiece like the original Detour (1945), or a surrealist nightmare like Daughter of Darkness (1955), or a genre original like Night of the Living Dead (1968), or as consistent and as knowingly referential as Piranha (1978) or The Howling (1981), or as hilariously over-the-top as Braindead (1992), but in regards to unpretentious and quick moving fun, Larva is miles above most of the other direct-to-DVD cluttering the shelves nowadays. A masterpiece? No fucking way. But, damn, it is a coherently funny, relatively well-cast flick that delivers the gore goods as it chugs full speed ahead to a typical "is-it-really-over-with-?" ending.
Of course, it is the very speed of the narration that helps make the film work: it doesn't give the viewer time to think twice about what is happening or to start noticing all the holes that pop up in the second half. If Larva were beef, it would be lean and trimmed of all fat — how trimmed? Well, at one point in the film there is a brief exchange about how "they have a plan"; not like they ever talked about it before they put it into action, however. (Why bother; it would only slow down the narrative.) Larva is the Speed (1994) of cheap mutant monster flicks. Turn off your brain and enjoy it.
The plot? We've all seen it or read it before: greed drives a bad-guy millionaire to do something unethical, good guy(s) discover the truth but no one believes them, the shit hits the fan and then a lot of people die before the baddies get their due and the good guys save the day... or did they?
This time around, the bad guy is the meat processing company Host Tender Meats, a firm that more or less calls the shots in the cattle town of Host. (Get it? Hardy-har-har!) In exchange for the exclusive rights to all the cattle, Host Tender Meats supply the farmers with the feed. Little do the good citizens know that the feed is tainted with some untested growth-inducing substance that ends up causing some sort of common intestinal parasite to mutate into big larva that eventually explode from the host stomach as flying, blood-sucking vertebrae. (In that sense, the film's title, while good and catchy, is misleading: the larva are only a precursor of the real monsters that cause all the havoc. But who's going to bother with a DVD titled Vertebrae?) New to town is the vegetarian veterinarian Dr. Eli Rudkus (Vincent Ventresca), who is quick to catch on to the mutant virus after looking at the cattle of a local cattle rancher (William Forsythe), but when he tries to warn the town he is quickly discredited by the owner of Host Tender Meats (David Selby as Fletcher Odermatt) and his no-nonsense lawyer Hayley Anderson (played Rod Stewart's ex-wife Rachel Hunter, whose enticing 36C/D-24-35 pulchritude — seen in one of the photos above — is well-hidden by her business suits). Hayley changes sides when stomachs start exploding, as does the local sheriff (Robert Miano) after his deputy's gut goes pop. The town soon has a whole flock of winged predators in search of lunch, but they "have a plan" and soon all four are running around yet another small-town canal system that looks large enough to suffice Los Angeles.... in fact, it looks to be the same "small-town" canal system used in The Blob remake back in 1988.
Although the viewer can only assume that most of the town dies from bursting stomachs, only a limited amount of innocents (probably about 10) are actually shown bursting, but boy, they do burst! (The best bursts are probably of the two teenage boys: one is in the shower talking on a phone to his girl when he starts gasping, and she simply thinks he's pulling his pud in expectation of the evening's fun she is promising; later, another teen's moans of pleasure as his stacked girlfriend begins removing her bra quickly changes into gasps of pain as his function as host also expires.) Aside from burst guts, however, a number of other innocents get sucked dry by the winged parasitical bat-creatures — including the stacked girlfriend, who somehow miraculously manages to get her bra back on before she starts trucking down the road in terror. By the end of the film, all the bad guys die so justice is served, but a nicely inconclusive pan onto the bed-ridden lawyer's stomach leaves open the question of whether or not the creatures are really gone for good...
Again, Larva offers nothing new in regards to the story, so don't expect anything narratively original. What Larva has that sets itself above so many other equally platitudinous DVDs and b-films (like Fred Olen Rays' Venomous (2002) or David DeCoteau's Blonde Heaven (1994 ) is the pace, the humor, the guts. Really, the only thing Larva completely lacks is gratuitous nudity... but then, nothing is ever perfect.

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