review by Joe Diablo
Science gone wrong, and giant insects have a storied cinematic history. From “Them!” to “Eight Legged Freaks,” genetically mutated big bugs have been thrilling audiences and killing townsfolk for over half a century. So the latest entomological entry into this sub-genre, the emphatically titled “CICADA!,” needs to bring something new to the table to make its mark.
When a toxic fertilizer seeps into a field of nymphs, the result is, 17 years later, giant killer cicada, whose penetrating probosci are thinning the population of Los Angeles. It’s up to disgraced former pro-hitter Johnny Bash to redeem himself and, along with childhood bartender buddy Randy, exotic dance/debatable-girlfriend Cindy, and insect nerd Nelson, save the day.
“CICADA!” is definitely not a film that takes itself seriously, nor asks that of its audience. It’s a campy, trashy, blood-splattered romp, filled with adolescent humor and bad jokes. How much of this you can take will pretty much gauge how you enjoy “CICADA!” as it’s fairly one-note. A good 80% of the film is our main characters going from location to location, dodging giant flying blue-screen (not green, as the closing credit outtakes confirm) insects. Otherwise, our crew spends the film cringing as the cicada spear the endless cast members identified in the credits merely as “Cicada Victim” (invariably exclaiming, “Shit! My neck!”).
It’s hard to say if the film is trying to send up macho masculinity with its almost universal portrayal of males as loud, boorishly offensive pigs. Both Johnny and Randy’s dialogue has been overdubbed with ridiculously gruff voices. And, except for dweeby Nelson and an old bum, practically every guy with more than three lines in the film cracks some crude or degrading comment. Yes, these characters usually get their comeuppance, either by the titular insects or Cindy’s kick, but what’s the purpose? We’ve seen a million scenes with loud-mouth louts in strip clubs. Do we need another? And one that goes on far too long? Yes, it’s pretty mild stuff in general, but it’s also tired and over-used.
There’s some cheesy charm to all of the shoestring effects work. The film is a cleverly composited amalgam of elements–helicopters, severed limbs, blood, eyeballs, and of course, bugs. And in classic cheap sci-fi science logic, since sugar burns, the sucrose-filled cicada explode like T.I.E. fighters.
One of the film’s main faults is that it’s too much, repeated ad nauseam. With a running time of nearly an hour and a half, it feels as bloated as one of the insects after feeding. Sure, it’s fun seeing this stuff the first time around, but once we’ve seen the same thing three times, the fourth is tedious and the sixth just gratuitous. It would probably be a much more fun film trimmed by about fifteen minutes.
“CICADA!” is pretty brainless, childish entertainment, but it needs that creative spark that drove its great, cheapo aesthetic to have inspired its story a bit more. It’s another campy horror flick that isn’t a total waste for those who love this stuff. But the film never swings for the fences hard enough to knock the ball out of the park.
This devil of a reviewer gives “CICADA!” 2 out of 5 imps