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When we talk about spider horror movies we talk about Arachnophobia, Eight Legged Freaks (for my money Big Ass Spider is the better daft B-Movie), and maybe that bit in The Mist. Hold on though, because there’s fresh phobia-instigation for a whole new generation. From now on Infested will be a staple of those lists and conversations. The debut feature film from French filmmaker Sebastien Vanicek is an impressive, terrifying foray into spider territory surpassing all previous attempts to capture the particular primeval ick we get from arachnids. 

Kaleb (Theo Christine) is an enterprising young man who has the beginnings of a decent business selling expensive trainers to the inhabitants of his run-down estate. He lives with his sister who is remodeling the place to sell after the death of their mother and has a passion for collecting exotic insects and reptiles. After the escape of a recently acquired, and very poisonous, spider, the entire estate ends up on the menu for a swarm of monstrous critters. 

Vanicek puts in the work early on, populating the estate so that when the shit hits the fan, the pace doesn’t really let up. There are estate elders warm to Kaleb and his late mum, a local miser who’s obsessed with outing Kaleb is a drug dealer, the unnoticed elderly woman who thanklessly cleans up after the estate’s hooligans. It’s a small community, bound by familiarity and gossip. When the first body drops, paranoia runs rife; maybe its murder, maybe there’s a virus since one of the police officers is wearing a face mask, it’s the unavoidable legacy of Covid. When the police lock down the building, unknowingly trapping everyone with the predatory arachnids, the insinuation becomes unavoidable, tensions skyrocket, and no one notices what’s happening to their neighbours. Infested becomes a rough allegory for the effects of covid on tight-knit communities. 

Within hours the problem explodes into nightmare territory; halls and stairwells covered in web, people silently dispatched in the comfort of their own homes only to become a warm wet place for the spiders to multiply. The camera twists through once-familiar hallways, now the alien lair of something innately gross and hungry. A sickly palate of green and yellow gives the film a dirty rotted aesthetic which summons a sly nihilism. 

Whether you have an issue with spiders or not Infested will make you squirm, guaranteed. It’s one of the few films out there which nails the unpredictability of eight-legged beasts and pulls off multiple sequences of obscene discomfort. Saying that, Vanicek never goes as gross as he probably could. He really labors the simple horror of a slightly juicy spider running up an arm then reminds us there’s so much more where that came from. Oblivious characters live next to air ducts and crawl spaces crammed with seething, scrabbling masses of nightmare fuel.  

When all is said and done, Infested is one hell of a debut for Vanicek. Not only does he nail the set-up, scares, and pace, he keeps a handle on proceedings as they careen off the rails into a kinetic clusterfuck of arachnid chaos. Grounded by solid performances, relatable characters, and an infectiously manic energy, Infested is easily one of the most uncomfortable insect horror films put to film. 


Scott Clark 

Dir. Sebastien Vanicek 

Stars. Theo Christine, Sofia Lesaffre, Jerome Neil, Lisa Nyarko, Finnegan Oldfield,  

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