The industrious bee gets a bad press in terror-by-bug movies like The Swarm, The Bees and The Savage Bees, which is odd since they generally have a better public image than picnic-spoiling wasps. This ordinary but acceptable shot-in-Canada-for-the-SciFi-Channel TV movie redresses a balance by siccing mutated killer wasps on a small town whose self-serving officials are unwilling to listen to vespiary experts and shut-down the nationally televised barbeque cook-offs.
Microscope-peering boffin Kent Horvath (Michael Shanks) discovers his newly-developed insecticide has only a seventy-five per-cent fatality rate, with surviving bugs becoming super-toxic and aggressive (‘Oh my God, the venom is now extremely powerful! We have created mutated wasps by applying the genetically-enhanced pesticide!’). A janitor gets stung to death and a wasp on his corpse kills the local coroner – distorted honey-gold images convey yellowjacket POV as actors swipe at the camera and CGI blots swarm over them before mild scabby make-up reveals their allergic reaction. Horvath’s wasp-hating exterminator pal Q (Richard Chevolleau) ‘borrows’ the experimental pesticide (‘it’s a new formula, really a little strong … we haven’t worked out all the bugs yet.’) and unwittingly creates a whole cloud of deadly insects, which take out the Mayor (Christopher Bondy) and the Sheriff (Bill Lake) while Kent and lady entomologist Cristina Brown (Carol Alt) rush around trying to warn folks (‘if the swarm comes here, it’s going to be really really bad’). Unethical, cowboy-suited barbeque sauce tycoon Phineas Washburn (Tim Thomerson) tries to suppress the bad news, while the Mayor’s once-devoted, now-demented assistant Ellie (Ellen Dubin) wants to blast the monsters one by one with a shotgun. Ellie comically goes after the buzzing bastard who stung her boss, before Washburn – whose role models include Dick Miller in Piranha and Murray Hamilton in Jaws — unethically knocks her out to ensure the vital barbeque cook-off goes ahead as planned so his company’s share price won’t plummet.
Naturally, the climax finds wasps swarming over that cook-off, and the usual dozens of swatting SciFi extras running and screaming in panic. The enjoyably verminous Washburn hides in an overturned wheelie-bin and a barrel of water, but since he’s the human villain of the film – rather than the whitecoated idiots whose fault the crisis is, who get to be heroes with flamethrowers and aerosols — the wasps make an extra effort to get him by crawling down the hosepipe he’s breathing through. In an odd, nasty aside a crass news cameraman hides safely in a phone booth while taping his presenter (Maria Brooks) being stung to death in her car (‘you’re fired, Jimmy, you’re fired’). Unusually, he isn’t punished and we assume he makes a fortune selling the snuff footage. The good guys lure the swarm into a garage by driving a truckload of exposed raw burgers through town, and then blowing the garage up. Q’s red-headed slacker pal (Jonathan Malen) gets the queen with a portable vacuum-cleaner — but, of course, the final frames show she has survived and is laying eggs. It’s odd that all SciFi Channel monster movies have sequel hooks, since they generally don’t bother to make sequels. The cast do what they can with the comic balloon dialogue, and Alt at least makes the wikipedia-of-wasps infodumps mildly engaging: it’s her job to insist that real wasps are respectable members of the insect community and not monsters – just before the rest of the film unleashes monster wasps. Directed by Paul Ziller (Snakehead Terror, Beyond Loch Ness, Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon); scripted by Miguel Tejada-Flores (Revenge of the Nerds, Screamers, Darkness, Beyond Re-Animator).