With its title, (it was originally shot as The Bewailing, a much more distinctive, but hopelessly obscure, title), and poster, it’s easy to assume The Nest is a remake of the 1987 killer cockroach film of the same name, 2015’s They Nest, or another of the many killer bug films like The Hive, Black Swarm and Cockroach Tide. Instead, first-time feature writer Jennifer Trudrung, who has appeared as an actress in several films including We Are the Missing and Halloween Kills, and director James Suttles (The Evil Inside Her) took inspiration from the various versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and by extension films like The Puppet Masters, The Brain Eaters and, of course, The Thing.
Beth (Sarah Navratil, Barbie’s Kenny) nearly died giving birth to her daughter Meg (Maple Suttles). She survived but with an addiction to painkillers that cost her her job, and her reputation and nearly destroyed her marriage to Jack (Kevin Patrick Murphy, A Dark Place, Jacob’s Ladder). Now she’s trying to put her life and her family back together.
Forced to move into her deceased uncle’s house, they’re out yard sailing when Meg fixates on a stuffed bear at a sale run by a creepy-looking old man. However, he’s not nearly as creepy as what lurks inside his house. It’s not long before Beth begins to notice changes in not just Meg and Jack, but even family friend Marissa (Dee Wallace, Await the Dawn, Ayla).
Usually, when a film like this gives its central character a backstory that involves drug addiction or mental illness it’s used to create doubt in the viewer’s mind. Doubt about the reality of the situation, that the character is really seeing what they think they are. The Nest almost immediately shows us scenes Beth couldn’t see, scenes that would seem to confirm the existence of the parasites.
Then Trudrung and Suttles double down on the unreliable narrator angle by having Beth suffer a head injury that puts her back on painkillers. Which had me wondering if she was indeed suffering from drug-induced paranoia or Imposters Syndrome. Not the kind where you feel you’re a fake but the kind where you think everyone else is, and we only saw what she imagined had happened as in High Tension.
Unfortunately, at an hour and forty minutes, The Nest runs long. It’s long on talk and doesn’t always have the atmosphere to keep from feeling like a Lifetime drama. Quite a bit of the film involves Beth being manipulated and gaslit by her now infected loved ones. At one point I wondered if it would play out that it was all a plot to allow Jack and Marissa to get Beth committed and out of the way.
When The Nest does trade talk for effects, the results are excellent. John Lauterbach, who had done effects for, among other films, The Good Things Devils Do and Dead Thirsty aka Rave Party Massacre, both of which Suttles had been the cinematographer for. Here he creates not just the creatures themselves but some nasty-looking makeup to depict the eventual fate of their human hosts.
The result is a film that has some highly effective moments but also bogs down a bit more than it probably should have. Overall though The Nest is quite effective and had me wondering just what was going on most of the time. The cast, including Drez Ryan (Seven Short Films About (Our) Marriage) as Meg’s therapist, do a great job at not giving it away until the final scenes.