Cockroach Tide (蟑潮) takes a slightly different approach than the other Chinese creature films I’ve reviewed recently. Unlike Snakes, or Mega Crocodile there are no giant monsters. But there are millions of highly intelligent, and hungry mutant cockroaches loose on a ship. Is your skin starting to crawl yet?
Writer/director Channel Choi (Tiger Killer, Double Dragon’s Peace Agreement) has taken people’s almost primal disgust with these insects and added a message about pollution in an attempt to craft a socially aware monster movie. Is his horror as evolved as his cockroaches? Or is this another Godzilla Vs The Smog Monster?
Dr. Victor Choi (Edwin Gerard, After the End), CEO of PDR Biotech has discovered a solution to the problem of the tons of garbage humans create every year, the Khepri. They’re a strain of cockroaches enhanced by artificial intelligence. They’ll eat everything and anything and can be controlled via a transmitter.
He’s been conducting his research on a specially outfitted ship for security reasons. But an unexpected encounter with an iceberg and a bit of espionage on the part of “Country M” by his assistant Allie (Zina Blahusova, Hostel, Fox Hunting) results in the bugs getting loose. Making matters worse the AI that serves as their queen has determined that humanity itself is trash, and needs to be eliminated.
Among those trapped on this floating bug buffet are Jianghe Qiao (Jia Jin, Anti-Japanese Heroes) the ship’s rather dissolute first mate, his teenage daughter Sihan (Yixuan Jiang) who is not pleased to be there, the shipping company’s scumbag owners, and a security team that looks like they’re about to invade Country M in retaliation for Allie’s sabotage.
None of them are given any real personality either. The CEO is the typical corporate scumbag who’ll feed his own people to the roaches to save his ass. The mercs have no problem drawing on the ship’s unarmed crew. Sihan acts like a slut to piss off her father who is regretful for his past actions.
Unfortunately Cockroach Tide suffers from more problems than just stock characters. Chinese films are infamous for their poorly done CGI and this has some of the worst. The shots of the ship and the iceberg look like something from an early computer game. The waves of bugs look more like a grey/black liquid than anything living. Even worse, in several scenes they seem to pop into existence on the outside of a grating rather than going through it.
There are also some serious lapses of logic, at several points in the film characters start blasting away at the bugs with military grade weapons. Inside a steel ship the ricochets and ruptured pipes should have been a huge problem, but not here.
What is a huge problem however is Cockroach Tide’s habit of stopping in the middle of the action to indulge in soap opera level drama between Jianghe and Sihan who blames him for her mother’s death. This could have been handled in a few minutes during their first argument, rather than repeatedly slowing things down.
Cockroach Tide had potential, a threat that makes people’s skin crawl and a claustrophobic setting. But even when it does come up with a good idea such as the bugs queen controlling the corpse of the ship’s captain (Shaowu Xu) it doesn’t do much with it. Roger Corman’s Concorde Pictures covered much of the same territory, and did it better, back in 1987 with The Nest. Even its effects were better.
Cockroach Tide ends with a lesson on how to sort garbage. It’s a fitting image for a film that should have been chucked in a dumpster with the roaches.