They Nest (2000)

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Released 5-Mar-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Menu Audio
Trailer-2
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 88:32 (Case: 92)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Ellory Elkayem
Studio
Distributor
Kushner-Locke
Tribe Enterprises
Starring Thomas Calabro
Dean Stockwell
Kristen Dalton
John Savage
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $39.95 Music Vinny Golia


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Doctor Ben Cahill (Thomas Calabro) takes a stress break from his emergency ward work by escaping to an island near Maine, USA. His plan to renovate the house he bought with his ex-wife is hampered by some rough-house locals, namely Jack Walk (John Savage) and his brother Eamon (Tom McBeath). This twosome used to own Ben's house, and are hell-bent on causing "city boy" endless headaches in order to chase him off the island. Their country inhospitality attracts the attention of Sheriff Hobbs (Dean Stockwell), who tries to cool things off on both sides of the fence. Ben gets secondary support from Nell (Kristen Dalton), a smart Jill-of-all-trades who is, naturally, also young and beautiful.

    Mixed into this small town melodrama is a subplot involving a mutant strain of cockroach that infests the island by way of a human corpse that floats ashore. When a fisherman is stung by a killer roach, the scene is set for a slow, creeping escalation of mayhem that eventually gets everyone's attention. Most disturbingly, their troublesome ways prevent Ben and the leggy Nell from having a sweaty, gymnastic, apocalyptic shag in the woods.

    Made for television, this effective little horror film takes its cue directly from a slew of past ecological horror films such as Slugs, Squirm, Mimic, The Nesting, Kingdom of the Spiders, Phase IV, Frogs, The Swarm, The Giant Spider Invasion, The Savage Bees, Them, Piranha, They Come from Within (aka Shivers in Australia), Humanoids from the Deep, and many others. As Stephen King has pointed out, these fun, formulaic movies generally feature (a) military or civilian scientists fooling around with nature, who for some reason do not warn anyone of the potential hazards, (b) a square-jawed hero and a nubile love interest who looks like she just stepped out of a shampoo commercial, (c) rednecks or politicians who refuse to acknowledge the menace before it's too late, (d) an outbreak of the menace that kills off many of the characters in unique, fascinating ways until the hero saves the day, and (e) a dark coda that implies a much wider infestation than that shown in the story.

    They Nest, directed by New Zealander Ellory Elkayem (Larger than Life, Arac Attack) and shot in Vancouver, is a classic example of this subgenre. It is played ultra-straight, similar to an X-Files episode, and wastes no time with subtexts or grandiose statements about the terrors that irresponsible scientific endeavours may unleash upon an unsuspecting world (the current foot-and-mouth disease outbreak gave this film an eerie resonance). The acting is competent given the material at hand. Melrose Place pretty boy Thomas Calabro was in fine form, as were Dean Stockwell (Blue Velvet, Dune), John Savage (The Thin Red Line, Carnosaur 2, Godfather III), and Kristen Dalton (Tango and Cash, The Wolves). As far as gore goes, there are a few interesting scenes involving larval bugs inside stomachs, a tracheotomy, dead animals, an autopsy, and someone vomiting up a bloody puddle of bug bile, but there's nothing to get really excited about. Having said that, the practical and digital special effects are very good. The CGI work was handled by Doug Campbell, who also worked on Stargate SG-1 and the wonderfully grotesque sci-fi mini-series Lexx.

    With its earnest, low-key approach, They Nest offers little in the way of genuine fear, plot twists, bloodshed, suspense, or originality. If it was made in the 1950s it would have been hailed a masterpiece of the macabre, but considering its heritage, They Nest scores low on exploring uncharted territory. Conversely, if you're looking for a serious horror film made with an emphasis on characterization and realism, this modest little fright flick is highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Framed at 1.33:1 and shot on either film or high-grade digital betacam, They Nest boasts an excellent video transfer. The 4:3 framing looked balanced, too.

    Sharpness and detail was on par with broadcast television. The crisp image, originally shot by TV regular Philip Linzey, yields many textures and details, both foreground and background. Shadow detail was excellent, and there was no evidence of edge enhancement. Blacks were solid and noise-free.

    Colours were also well rendered, although the palette on this film was restricted to the grey, foresty backdrops of a perpetually overcast Vancouver: another reason why this feature resembles The X-Files. Dr Ben's red utility truck exhibited a pleasing level of saturation and skin tones were accurate -- at least on the characters that were alive, heh heh heh. (Incidentally, I think Scully and Mulder would have sewn up this case in the first act. "Scully, this reminds me of a B-movie I saw once. Bugs using humans as hosts." "You're right, Mulder. I'll evacuate the island and put everyone in quarantine. You call Skinner and get him to mobilize the army into napalming the entire area.")

    I only noticed maybe two instances of white speckle on the image, and two instances of transparent blotches that looked like water marks, one at 26:35 (a kind of tiger stripe, as if someone had dabbed a greasy witchety grub on the frame) and the other at 49:00, right over Tommy Calabro's handsome face. These artefacts lead me to believe this transfer was indeed sourced from film, but the jury is still out. Apart from some minor aliasing on high contrast transitions, there were no compression glitches. This is an outstanding transfer considering the low budget production and the relative youth of newcomer, Tribe.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio does the material justice, although more punch and creativity would have supplemented the visual atmospherics substantially.

    Dialogue was clear and in sync. The only criticism I have was that it could have been sharper, mixed higher. I put this down to the film's low budget and the limitations of Pro-Logic.

    The generic music by Vinny Golia integrates well with the sound effects and dialogue.

    The surrounds perked into life every now and then, but on the whole they remained dormant. The subwoofer had a great time amplifying many of the ominous, extended bass notes in Golia's score, although they often sounded woolly in my Gold Class home cinema.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menus

    These are presented full frame with twittering, insecty music in the background. One menu option allows you to jump to the movie's end credits.

Coming Attractions Theatrical Trailers (x 2)

    Girlfight (2:25) is presented full frame, and Grey Owl (1:56), featuring a bewigged Pierce Brosnan posing as a native American Indian (hey I was fooled), is letterboxed to approximately 1.85:1. These trailers had Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and fair video quality.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I found no evidence of They Nest being released in other regions.

Summary

    They Nest is a good choice if you are easily terrified by horror films, or if you are too queasy to endure anything with substantial gore effects. This movie, while spawned from the same nest as many earlier outings, is nevertheless an entertaining thriller that will have you spraying the house with Baygon for weeks afterward.

    The video transfer is fabulous, and the audio, while being a lazy Pro-Logic mix, has a decent enough presence at high volumes. Predictably, there are no real extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rod Williams (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Sunday, March 18, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Ergo (81cm). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder.
AmplificationArcam AV50 5 x 50W amplifier
SpeakersFront: ALR/Jordan Entry 5M, Centre: ALR/Jordan 4M, Rear: ALR/Jordan Entry 2M, Subwoofer: B&W ASW-1000 (active)

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