Think back to the importance that the movie “The Big Chill” had on our popular culture. Recall if you can how it chronicled the advancement of the baby-boomers on film. Remember how it inspired other projects such as Thirtysomething while it solidified the standing of the former-hippie-turned-mainstream in our society? Remember how you wanted to kick in your TV every time it played on HBO?
Director Josh Olson remembers as well and he has crafted a cinematic emetic for all of us. He takes that film’s pent up middle-aged angst and the self-important introspection and does the only respectable thing: he runs that scenario through the insect plague/killer zombie meat grinder.
“Infested” centers around a group of successful friends who are brought together by the death of their friend Steven. After attending a crass funeral presided over by an ordained priest with an unorthodox theology the group retires to a beach house to re-bond and make merry. Olson takes his time in the first reel, letting us get acquainted with each person and their role in the clique. This would be ponderous to the few who may miss the “…Chill” parallel, but it makes a fine set up for the remainder of the film.
Rather than a group of morose former peaceniks we get a gaggle of yuppies who reminisce about the ‘80s when they were…well, younger yuppies. With Eddie Money guiding the way they converge on the shore, crack a few bottles of merlot, and rather than Motown they dance like white people to Trio’s classic “Da-Da-Da”. They are a rather jovial lot considering this is following a funeral.
This merriment splits one couple, as Bob gets pissy watching Ellen have fun with old friends and he flees in one of the SUVs from the fleet they all arrived in. The petite Jessie feels out of place as she was dating the departed and does not know the old gang, and she gets left behind when the gals decide to go swimming. Meanwhile Carl ignores his wife as he’s ogling Mindy with the rest of the chaps. Seems very little has changed in twenty years.
At the shore Mindy decides to stay out in the water for a plot-driven skinny dipping scene, after which she gets dressed to do some sunbathing. This leads her to encounter with a small swarm of flies and things turn dire. Carl approaches and tries to be the debonair man his wife knows doesn’t exist, but that isn’t necessary because after being bitten Mindy is proactive with her affections. Turns out that the flies occupy their bodies and it causes the victims to become zombies, which is also transferable, so she and Carl now descend on the home.
The housemates are not sure what to make of the transformation but when Carl breaks his own neck and later removes his own head they reach a consensus that things have turned bad. Jessie (Amy Jo Johnson) gets her share of face time, mostly with zombies spraying blood on her when they don’t employ “The Green Mile” technique of bad CGI flies pouring from their mouths. These half-dead types go down about as easy as Monty Python’s dismembered knight when everything from rubber crow bars to torso bi-sections fail in stopping them
We encounter a climax with the survivors running the gauntlet to their trucks to retrieve a phone which leads to extended scenes of them climbing around the house trying to get a signal for their cellular service. Then as the attrition adds up Jessie and Eric find they can delay the inevitable when they discover that playing “Da-Da-Da” causes the zombies to fall into a bit of a stupor. Of course this also causes the undead to fall into the record player and there is much tension in the replacing of the stylus to keep the peace. I was conflicted at this part with the crossed metaphors: at once it was an indictment of man’s over reliance on technology, yet if they had a CD player with shock resistant skip-proofing their zombie problem is solved.
More amusement is to be had as the elfin Amy Jo is the industrious member of this assemblage while all the males succumb rather easily. She is the one to discover that the swarm is vaporized in the light, (although they can infect people on the beach at high noon) she is the only one who seems to be able to fight them off, and she finds a way to blow up the home. Of course her years of serving as the pink Power Ranger prepared her well for this, but hell, she was the only one who could find the bug spray.
I would also point out that we should keep our eyes on the actor Daniel Jenkins. He portrayed the dead friend here and thus, he’s destined for greatness. Kevin Costner was tabbed to play the coffin pilot for “The Big Chill” and look at the stardom it launched for him. Jenkins shows he has the ability to hit his mark and remember his lines to get effective shots in the can–things Costner couldn’t manage in the original.
It goes without saying that there was vast satisfaction riding through this kind of send up. It is one of those connections that make so much sense that you feel anyone could have thought it up. All those mewling well-to-do cry babies musing about “what it all means”—they already are zombies! Yet it took two decades for the correlation to be made.