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Friday, January 4, 2013

THE MILLENNIUM BUG -- DVD review by porfle

With a rather bland title and an opening ten minutes that makes it appear as though we're in for yet another generic tale of city folk terrorized by backwoods maniacs, THE MILLENNIUM BUG (2011) gradually escalates into one of the most stunning blood-and-thunder monster flicks to assail the senses since...well, 1999.

It begins on December 31st of that year with the Haskin family--Byron (Jon Briddell), his new wife Joany (Jessica Simons), and Byron's teen daughter Clarissa (Christine Haeberman) camping out in the deep forest of the Sierra Diablos mountains, far from any potential difficulties due to the dreaded Y2K bug.  They're nice, but boring, and it looks like the film is going to be boring too, even when some inbred hillbillies have a run-in with the local game warden nearby and he ends up being sucked underground by an unseen monster. 

Cut to the interior of the Crawford family's remote cabin, and suddenly, from out of nowhere, the film takes on the surreal quality of a giddy, hysterical nightmare.  While Granny (Sandi Steinberg), Uncle Hibby (Trek Loneman), and the rest of the clan look on, Pearlene (Ginger Pullman) is on the kitchen table giving birth to what turns out to be yet another genetic mutation to be taken out and shot. "We need some new blood in this family!" Granny announces. 

Enter the hapless Haskins family as unwilling breeding stock, starting with young Clarissa, and THE MILLENNIUM BUG shifts into horrendous high gear.  What follows is a funny, horrific, and lavishly gory descent into domestic chaos, demented-hillbilly style.  After eldest Crawford son Billa (John Charles Meyer) "marries" Clarissa during a deranged wedding ceremony, Byron and Joany break loose and engage the psychotic yokels in battle.  Other elements add to the horror, including Byron's dark-basement encounter with Orpheus, the creepiest and most demented of the Crawford clan. 

But wait--there's more.  Because not far away, cryptozoologist Roger Patterson (Ken MacFarlane) is on the trail of that giant underground monster, which only comes to life once every thousand years.  MacFarlane, veteran of all three "Caesar and Otto" comedies including the most recent CAESAR AND OTTO'S DEADLY XMAS, gives his usual delightfully-eccentric performance, but we wonder--why is this tacked-on monster subplot even necessary given how much is already going on in the Crawfords' cabin?
This question is answered in spades when the towering creature finally comes to life in all its shambling, scaly, fanged glory.  Writer-director Kenneth Cran (THE NIGHT CALLER) wanted to make an old-school giant monster flick with absolutely no CGI, instead relying on every trick in the "practical effects" book to take monster fans back to the glory days of suitmation, models, puppets, and full-scale mock-ups, along with great miniature sets, finely-rendered optical effects, and elaborate makeups. 

Thus, this giddily grotesque cross between "The Hills Have Eyes" and Sid and Marty Krofft morphs into a colossal creature invasion that will have city folk and yokels alike running for their lives.  But even with the wonderfully executed Millennium Bug Monster crashing through scale-model sets and gnashing people in its full-sized jaws, there's still time for some exquisitely repellent side trips into awfulness such as Pearlene trying to entice an unwilling Roger Patterson with her hideous three-nippled breasts, or later being subjected to a full-body monster bukkake courtesy of what we can only assume are the creature's sex organs.

The DVD from Green Apple Entertainment is in 16 x 9 (1.78:1) widescreen with 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound.  No subtitles.  Extras include an informative commentary with writer-director Kenneth Cran, producer James Cran, and production designer Dustin Yoder (who plays "Orpheus"), along with deleted scenes and a "making-of" featurette that those interested in indy filmmaking will find enlightening.  Andrew Spence's bombastic synth score is alternately overpowering and exciting.

With the way, way over-the-top acting and cartoonish antics of the Crawfords leading to the mammoth creature's bloody, slime-drenched rampage, THE MILLENNIUM BUG just gets more fun and more outrageous as it goes along.  And for those who, like director Cran, are simply tired of pervasive, non-stop CGI, the old-school special effects alone will be a prime reason why this lovingly-crafted monsterfest should not be missed. 

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