Infested (2023) Review

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Sting was pitting an oversized spider against the inhabitants of an NYC apartment building. Now we have Infested, which pits the inhabitants of a French housing project against a horde of arachnids. Arachnids that the prologue implies are both deadly and in demand.

One of the people that demand comes from is Kaleb (Théo Christine, How I Became a Super Hero, War of the Worlds). He’s a young man trying to make a living hustling sneakers and whatever else he can make a quick profit from. It’s not exactly a thriving business, and he’s stuck living with his sister Manon (Lisa Nykaro, La Rupture, La Vide) in the rundown apartment they inherited from their mother. Adding to his unhappiness is a falling out with his long time friend Jordy (Finnegan Oldfield, Coupez!, Beasts).

To cheer himself up, he decides to make an addition to his collection of reptiles and other unusual pets. A large spider which he names “Rihanna”. And, since this is a horror movie, she promptly escapes and begins laying eggs.

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Infested was originally titled Vermines, which is French for Vermin, and director Sébastien Vanicek (Crocs, Mayday) and co-writer Florent Bernard (Jack Mimoun and the Secrets of Val Verde, Meet the Leroys) put a double meaning on it. Of course, it refers to the eight legged critters intent on turning the building’s inhabitants into dinner. But it also reflects the attitude others have towards the people living in the project.

VERMIN is a genre film with an important societal value, a “natural horror” in which underprivileged inhabitants are locked down by the police following an invasion of venomous spiders that are becoming bigger and bigger. The spiders serve as allegory of the suburbanites, of those who suffer from discrimination, who are judged as soon as they step out of their box, are perceived as “vermin” and whose anger grows, bigger and bigger.

Sébastien Vanicek

So much so that after the first victim is discovered, the authorities’ solution is to seal off the building, with its occupants still inside. And place armed guards outside to make sure no vermin of any kind get out. After all, letting them kill each other off solves two problems, although the cops are more than willing to join in if they get the chance even though Manon’s friend Lila (Sofia Lesaffre, Earth and Blood, Deep Fear) works in law enforcement.

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While it does take its time getting down to business, once the spiders start to show themselves, Infested does manage to deliver several moments that will have viewers brushing imaginary spiders off themselves. The scene where they have to get through a long corridor covered in webs and crawling with spiders of all sizes will have most viewer’s skin crawling, even if they don’t suffer from arachnophobia.

It helps that the effects used to create the spiders, a mix of practical and CGI depending on the scene, are quite good. The filmmakers also use the building’s dark corridors to suggest even more creatures than we see. Unfortunately, something else we tend not to see is gore, as most of the kills happen off-screen, leaving the viewer to use their imagination as everyone stands around listening to the screaming.

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Things do get a bit confusing and at times fail to make sense near the end as the threats from the spiders and the police converge, and at an hour and forty-five minutes it feels a bit long, mostly due to the slow build up at the beginning. Based on Infested, Vanicek was chosen to direct the next Evil Dead film, and it’s easy to see why. He’s delivered a creepy tale of creepy crawlies that’ll have you shaking out towels and sheets just in case anything’s hiding in them.

Shudder will get Infested on April 26th.

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