It's a familiar premise to sci-fi horror fans. A dangerous killer is given a chance to reduce his prison/death sentence by taking part in a science experiment. Going along with things, the killer seizes an opportunity to escape, getting hold of a gun and causing havoc in a laboratory before crashing into an environment that contains a number of insects that were also a part of the scientific process. Some DNA alteration occurs, and the killer becomes a giant killer insect (a large mosquito, in this instance, hence the name). There's a determined cop after him (Lt. Thomas Randall, played by Corin Nemec) and a doctor who also seems to have suffered from the incident (Dr. Jennifer Allen, also the partner of the cop, and played by Musetta Vander). And there are a number of bodies that are starting to show up with a large amount of blood lost.
A creature feature made for TV, Mansquito (the better, original, title) is a really good example of this type of thing. It is, in fact, one of the best of these movies that I can think of, despite still suffering from that feeling of things being slightly padded-out in the second half. But the good stuff more than makes up for the weaker moments.
The screenplay is by Michael Hurst, working to a formula that has been successful on many different occasions (and also bringing some Cronenbergian body horror to the mix . . . I am pretty sure you HAVE to put those words together - Cronenbergian and body horror - it's some kind of rule), and the direction is from Tibor Takács, a man with a filmography made up of some interesting late '80s movies (and one late '70s debut), a bunch of creature features, and a growing amount of Christmas TV movies. He is, from my limited knowledge of his work, a fairly safe pair of hands, and he certainly shows here that he can make the most of some relatively limited resources.
Nemec isn't too bad in the "hero" role, personally invested in the whole situation because, of course, he helped catch the killer originally, and he also wants to keep his girlfriend safe. As the scientist who finds herself affected by the violent escapade, Vander is very good. She has a striking beauty that makes her stand out in every role, and she plays things well as her character starts to realise the full extent of the situation. Matt Jordon (billed as Mathew Jordan) isn't onscreen for long in his natural guise, but does just fine with what he's given, and you get Patrick Dreikauss and Jay Benedict as Detective Charlie Morrison and Dr. Aaron Michaels, respectively. The former is partnered up with Nemec's character, the latter is the boss of Vander's character, and doesn't take things too well when his potential experiment is ruined. Christa Campbell also gets her name quite high on the cast list, but she only has about a minute of screentime.
The real star, however, is the practical effects on display. Mansquito is a genuinely impressive creation. If you watch the beginning of the film and think the transformation is going to be a slow and steady one then think again. It only takes about 15 minutes or so for the full creature to appear, and it's glorious. A fascinating, ugly, horrifying, deadly creature out for blood. And if they ever want someone to consult on a belated, Scotland-set, sequel entitled "Midge Man" then I am all over it.
The title alone may be enough to put many off, and outlandish creature features are not for everyone, but if you enjoy solid sci-fi horror movies then you'll find plenty to like here. Especially in that better-paced first half. I would happily rewatch this.
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