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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [July 23, 2021]





[]  This is one weird horror film. Meg (Maple Suttles) is a little girl who picks up a teddy bear at a garage sale. Demonic stuffed animals and dolls are a horror staple, but Meg's teddy isn't possessed. Instead, this teddy is host to a nest of bizarre insects. Every now and then, an insect emerges from teddy's belly, enters some hapless person's mouth, and takes control of that person's mind.

Don't feel sorry for Meg. She's a nasty piece of work. That might partially be because she's possessed early on, but also because she harbors much anger and resentment at her mother Beth (Sarah Navratil).

Beth is a former junkie who's trying to rekindle her relationship with Meg and hubby Jack (Kevin Patrick Murphy). Difficult for Beth to do, considering the people about her are being possessed by insects.

The Nest is burdened with much domestic drama, making for a slow pace. Long periods of family bickering, and recriminations, and trouble at school abound, all too rarely punctuated by moments of horror. Some will call it a "slow burn." That can be good or bad, depending on how engaging the characters are, and how interesting their non-horror activities. In this case, not very.

All the domestic drama makes for a thematically messy film. Much can be inferred, but no clear message emerges. Meg suffers separation anxiety because Beth wants to return to work. Meg feels that Beth is abandoning her yet again, as when Beth was a junkie. Beth feels guilty about her career aspirations. Is Meg justified in her separation anxiety? Is finding work analogous to being a junkie? Is Jack too controlling? Did he drive Beth to drugs? Or is he supportive, a victim of Beth? He later slaps Meg and Beth. Which came first, the domestic violence or the drugs? Meg attacks a child and a school counselor. Is there a "cycle of family violence" theme lurking here? Both Jack and Meg are possessed by insects during their acts of violence. Are the insects the cause (absolving Jack and Meg of guilt) or just a metaphor?

Themes abound, but the film's ending seems unrelated to any of it. The Nest offers an effective dramatic closure, but no thematic closure. Themes raised are simply dropped.



The Nest's invading insects conceit is not an entirely original. Shivers and The Hidden series both had creatures invading peoples' mouths, taking possession of their minds. And as in Shivers (and Invasion of the Body Snatchers), The Nest's insects seem primarily interested in propagating themselves, which means constantly seeking new human hosts. Especially because (as in The Hidden), these parasites cause their human host to quickly decay and die.

Despite stretches of boredom, The Nest has its moments. Little explanation is given for the insects, but there are interesting hints (e.g., the possessed people at film's end sewing up stuffed animals bellies, presumably with more insects). The production values are slick. The cinematography creates a moody atmosphere that supports the story's weirdness. Make-up and visual effects are impressive. The gruesome insect "queen" at film's end is memorable and jarring, though not entirely unexpected.



The cast is uniformly professional. Maple Suttles (director James Suttles's daughter) is disquietingly creepy, insects having transformed her into the quintessential bad seed. Navratil performs well as a former junkie, on edge, high-strung, a bit paranoid, yet not entirely unsympathetic. Murphy does a good job as a warmly supportive family man, with hints of darker undercurrents.

Dee Wallace, the biggest name, does a fine job playing a family friend. Although hers is a supporting role, it's more than a cameo, which was nice. This is not some film where they hired a big name for just one day's work. Wallace appears robust at 72, and should have many more productive years ahead of her.

The Nest is a low-budget affair with a small cast. Meg's school scenes are always in the counselor's office or in empty hallways (the other children all conveniently in class).

Overall, The Nest is a well made horror film, marred only but its slow pacing.


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