Jan 29, 2013


The year was 1999. The Brooklyn Dodgers had just won their 17th pennant.  Dewey did NOT defeat Truman. World War II had just begun.

Just kidding, of course. The truth is, nothing happened in 1999 except the Y2K scare and the release of the feature film End of Days.

If you remember Y2K, you remember how stupid you felt the minute clocks struck midnight, welcoming the year 2000, and computers did not become self-aware and begin enslaving the human race. Either that, or they didn't shut down and wipe out our account balances and cease to remember how to function. I forget which was supposed to happen.

But the point is: all the people who had stock piled water, canned foods, batteries, flash lights, etc, felt really, really embarrassed. And they should have, because, seriously. If ever there were a more ridiculous fear campaign perpetrated by the media, I haven't heard of it.

Were there some folks who took it one step further and retreated into the middle of the woods, far from technology, just to play it safe? It's possible. In fact, more than possible, because I can say for certain that the Haskin family did just that. With their car packed to the brim with luggage, Christmas cookies, and good intentions, the Haskin family 2.0 - now featuring a new stepmother - have set off for their first New Year as a New Family. It is a quasi New Year celebration mixed with a honeymoon mixed with an escape of the alleged Y2K everyone's been talking about. It was supposed to be nothing but champagne, noisemakers, and stupid hats.

Until an inbred family of maniacs crash the party and kidnap the family. 

But wait! Seems there is a large mutant bug running around the woods as well!

But wait! Seems as if there is an archaeologist or a zoologist or some kind of ologist tracking the mutant and recording nearly every move!

But wait! Seems as if someone is giving birth to a mutant baby!

For having such a stupid concept, The Millennium Bug has a lot going on. We have the Haskin family venturing into the deep dark woods; we have a minute military presence wandering around those same woods; and we have a Texas Chain Saw Massacre-inspired family of inbreeds living in a cramped farmhouse in - you guessed it - the woods. It's natural that all of these subplots would soon meet as one, and the results are...odd. 

A large part of The Millennium Bug's marketing campaign has focused on the whole no CGI/practical effects only thing. Is that something to be proud of in 2013? Even with insanely low budgets, yes, it is. For far too long filmmakers have used CGI to tell their story - and I'm not even talking about low budget productions. So many of Hollywood's biggest films are nothing more than promo reels for the visual effects artists responsible for destroying the world, or resurrecting gigantic robots, or destroying the world by resurrecting gigantic robots. The magic is gone. Demands of "how did they do that?" have become irrelevant, as the answer is now boring, and one word: "computers."

That is where The Millennium Bug shines. It wears its humble influences lovingly on its latex-covered shoulder. Rubber heads, red-dyed corn syrup, camera tricks. The golden age of cinema - in both technique and concept - is temporarily back. But with it comes the unfortunate pratfalls that littered those "classics" as well, the biggest offender being the less than convincing acting. But this is throwback territory, after all.

At times it feels as if there is a bit too much going on. The Haskin family, the scientist, the weirdo inbred clan - though they all intermingle in a perfectly fine way, it still feels a bit too crowded. The scientist, for example, could easily have been lost and not affected much. He exists for no other reason than to provide exposition, which no one requires in a movie of this ilk, anyway.

The mutants of the '50s and the grime of the '70s are ever present. What we have here are two fairly straightforward and familiar horror tropes - the mutant in the woods, and the inbred crazy family - instead they've been joined together, and the events legitimately become unpredictable. Characters whom we're led to believe will be the hero...definitely aren't. Those we're sure will survive get bullets through the head, or hatchets to the chest.

We also get multi-nippled breasts, which no one ever expects. 

The actual in-camera effects are admittedly great. This deserves special attention, as this is definitely a low budget affair. The effects become less convincing when greenscreened in behind a fleeing character, but again, given its budget, it feels spiteful to point that out.

The best thing about The Millennium Bug is that it does not want you to take it seriously. A throwaway joke involving a man carving what looks like a penis until he turns it around to reveal it's some kind of holy relic pretty much solidifies that fact. It's there for no other reason than to make its audience laugh their best Beavis & Butthead laugh and say, "that's a wiener."

Will audiences be talking about The Millennium Bug in years to come? Probably not. But it certainly makes for some good present conversation, as there is currently nothing else like it.

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