Reality Bites: Infested!
We in Houston have it relatively easy, believe it or not (compared to Australia, I mean). Yet even here, the summer breeze carries wave after wave of bloodsucking parasites, our lawns conceals sting-crazy ants, and we even have to keep an eye out for alligators in our subdivisions.
Animal Planet's Infested! shows us what happens when wildlife decides they've had enough of your arbitrary property boundaries and take up residence right alongside humans. The humans in question, for some reason, aren't generally excited about the proposition.
Any time one of these shows comes along (Discovery Channel's Verminators also comes to mind) I can't help thinking of our rich cinematic history of vermin.
We've gone through two distinct phases of "nature run amok" movies. The first was in the 1950s, in response to uncertainty over the rise of nuclear power and how it might ultimately affect mankind. It resulted in movies like Them!, Tarantula, and The Deadly Mantis. We can perhaps be forgiven, back in the duck-and-cover era, for thinking a giant mantis cracking open a city bus and feasting on the tender morsels inside was somehow more terrifying than tens of thousands perishing in an H-bomb blast.
A new wave of movies about both giant bugs (The Giant Spider Invasion, Empire of the Ants) and normal fauna gone berserk (The Swarm, The Food of the Gods, Prophecy) appeared in the 1970s. This time around, nature decides to rise up due to (take your pick) pollution (Prophecy), pesticides (Kingdom of the Spiders), or disrespect for sacred Indian land (Nightwing). These movies can often be identified by the presence of hunky scientists and/or Joan Van Ark.
That rambling interlude was mostly to soften the blow that Infested! is pretty damn dull. Unlike Verminators, which follows actual ... verminators into action against hostile animal forces, the former relies on interviews and reenactments. I realize asking a couple terrified by an invasion of [checks notes ... opossums? That can't be right] opossums to whip out the video camera is asking a bit much, but Animal Planet would do better to try and get on the ground floor, as it were, and go out to the house while the infestation is actually happening. There's little risk of a Shatner scenario developing, and we'd at least all be spared the unintentional hilarity of watching Uncle Wozname dramatically choking on a mouthful of spaghetti with stinkbug sauce.
Yes, stinkbugs. As arthropod home invasions go, it isn't quite Eight Legged Freaks, but if years spent watching these goddamn shows has taught me anything, it's that you don't move into a house in the middle of the forest. Forget stinkbugs, what about snakes? Or wolves? Or Sasquatch?
Not to diminish the problem, of course. I've known people who had to deal with flea infestations, wasps (not this kind), and mice. It can be frustrating at best and life-threatening at worst. I'd probably move my entire family into a hotel (bedbugs!) and send my house into another dimension, Poltergeist-style if I had to deal with such a thing. Because I'm all about measure responses.
But Animal Planet does its best. The music is so vintage Wes Craven I was afraid the pack from The Hills Have Eyes was about to show up. And "Contain images that may be disturbing to some viewers" has to be the "No one will be admitted during the last 15 minutes!" of the 21st century.
Unfortunately, by the time we get to Cynthia and her daughter getting terrorized by possums, it's hard to work up the ability to care. Call an exterminator and quit watching movies in a creepy unfinished basement.
Unless they're giant possums, of course, then you better call Shatner.