I’ve been a science
fiction fan ever since I can remember. I can probably blame that on being a child
of the 60’s -- and on my mother, who chose the programming on the one TV most people had back then. I was raised on Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Star Trek, all the Irwin Allen shows
like Lost in Space and especially the Saturday afternoon reruns of 50s
horror and monster movies.
So, reading the plot description
for Larva, I knew what to expect from the movie. The essential plot hasn’t
deviated much since the days of Frankenstein: Man overreaching himself in the search for profit or knowledge creates
some horrible thing then he and most of those around him are destroyed by it. The
monster is ultimately destroyed by those who had warned against the action that created it.
Pretty basic plot:
one which most people are familiar with. Whether it makes a good or a bad movie
depends wholly on the execution and the unique factors brought to the plot. Larva
handles this well. It tries to tell a story, but at the same time it has a sense
of humor about both itself and its genre. The throwaways and in-joke references
to other SF movies (most notably in my mind the “chestbuster” scene
from Alien, but there is also the stingray like appearance of the monsters, bringing to mind the “plastic pancakes” on the episode of classic Star Trek called "Operation Annihilate")
brought to my mind the streams of movie in jokes running through both the original Star Wars trilogy and the Indiana
Jones movies. (And is anyone but me amused by the fact that, in this movie based on wrongdoings in the meat industry, both
David Selby who plays the owner of the meatpacking plant, and Rachel Hunter who plays his lawyer are in real life vegetarians?)
The actors are all quite credible in their roles, following the one major rule of good science fiction: The situations and the creatures may require “the willing suspension of disbelief”
but the characters must always behave in very believably human ways.
Odermatt is yet another of his three dimensional and very human villains. He
is a hard-bitten and ruthless man who runs his family’s meat packing plant, the major prop of the economy in Host, Missouri. He sees no problem in making an end run around the FDA regulations, using drugs not
yet approved to stimulate cattle growth. Yet we also see that outside factors have pushed him toward this decision as well: his board of directors, his employees and the ranchers from whom he buys cattle are
pushing for higher profits. When things start going wrong, covering up
and protecting himself and the business his great-granddaddy founded are his first priorities.
And yet, we see a completely different side of the character with his family, especially his small son. One scene in particular is totally adorable, yet also carries an undertone of foreboding. The son had been playing with a monster robot, making spooky and scary noises for the game he was playing. There is some nice banter with Fletcher and his wife at the dinnertable, each ragging
the other for buying the son “that toy” while Fletcher does a repertoire of weird noises and silly faces with
his son, giving the impression that there were TWO boys in that family. (As an
aside it was rather amusing to me that I had recorded this on the tape right behind the Halloween segment of DIY, where DS
also does silly faces and voices for the amusement of a child, this time to illustrate the proper telling of a spooky story.)
In short, Larva
is a better than average genre movie, with solid performances by the cast.. Any
fan of horror movies of of David Selby’s work will find it well worth their time.
Update: The DVD of Larva has now been out
for a while, and it contains extra features such as a making of documentary. I would also suspect that Sci Fi will rerun
it from time to time as they do their other movies.