This format is a shorter, more to the point, off-shot of the normal review/op-eds I normally do. A ranking will be given at the end from a scale that starts at (from the lowest to the highest): Bad – meh – fine – good – great. Anything not appropriate for these “scores” will likely warrant a more in-depth discussion, which is what I normally do, so this range does not cover all movies, just the ones that I think are suited to this format.
Horror can come in various forms, shapes, and sizes. It can aim to terrify you with sudden scares or violent acts, but it can also try to mess with your head and insert ideas or visuals you don’t really want. The Swarm aims for the latter and, at times, achieves it quite well, however it gets caught up in the drama of the story too much and forgets to toy with the audience and make the most out of its horror aspirations. It eventually does build up to a proper horror ending, but the actual resolution feels rushed and it even has one of the worst continuity errors I’ve seen this year. All in all, it is an entertaining drama with proper build up for a good horror ending that can’t quite stick to the landing like a locust would.
Directed by Just Philippot and starring Suliane Brahim, Sofian Khammes, Marie Narbonne, and Raphael Romand, The Swarm is the story of the Hebrard family who is struggling after single mom Virginie’s locust farm is struggling to meet demands as the locust have stopped reproducing; however, she soon finds out that they have a taste for blood and that makes them reproduce more efficiently than ever before. The main struggle that keeps this movie from being truly great can be guessed just from reading that premise; although it does sound like a decent horror set up with blood-thirsty locusts, there isn’t much to that on its own and the natural instinct would be to take the more thematically appropriate route of drama. The Hebrard family’s life is not ideal; with the father out of the picture, the mother struggling to keep her farm going and be a great parent, the oldest daughter going through a difficult puberty, and the youngest son being overtly protected due to some form of medical concerns. Thus, when the opportunity arrives for Virginie to excel at her business and be able to provide all the things her kids want and be a successful businesswoman, she is more than happy to sacrifice a bit of blood; as one can imagine though, a bit of blood is not enough and the locust will soon bleed Virginie dry if she lets them, especially since they start getting more aggressive in their pursuit of blood.
This is essentially the biggest part of the movie; exploring the theme of “work sucking your blood dry” and, in fairness, it does it pretty well. There are some awkward moments with the kids being a bit too annoying or the characters deciding to be a bit more impulsive than they usually had been, but overall, I like the movie’s direction with the exploration of the central theme. Virginie is distraught and always tired, but she finally begins to give her kids what they desire, before she begins to expand and needs to do some nasty stuff to feed her ambitions (which in turn feed back from her in the form of locusts). This is where I should mention the great performances by everyone in the cast; Suliane Brahim as Virginie has a lot to work with and is pretty great throughout, while I was impressed with Marie Narbonne as teenage daughter Laura who doesn’t go as over the top as her role may suggest and deals with her character excellently. My main issue is that, despite having a terrible relationship with actual locusts, I never felt queasy or needing to look away; in real life all I need to run away from locusts is someone grabbing them and looking at the unnatural shape of their bodies and swiftness of their feet. In a movie about them sucking on blood, I rarely cringed in any way; while the drama was pretty compelling, there are no horror moments of note for the first hour, in a movie whose runtime is just over 100 minutes, so it doesn’t deliver on what it should.
Around the hour mark though, the movie does start to shift its focus more on the horror elements and it presents a solid experience. This isn’t a movie about jump scares or excessive gore (although there is a fair amount of gore) and the latter half sticks by that; this is the point of no return though for many characters and how they decide to deal with certain situations. This leads to a fairly entertaining closing with a lot of thrills and edge-of-your-seat moments, which, unfortunately, lead to the clearly rushed finale; the very last shot just screams of a production that needed to stop right that moment, but the hilarious continuity error just before that cements that position. It’s a shame because the ending doesn’t really leave out any important bits of information, it is just very abrupt and it left me feeling like I had at least 5 to 10 more minutes with this sequence left out.
Overall, I feel like I had a FINE enough time with The Swarm. I liked the performances; the dramatic elements became too much of a focus but at least delivered a compelling drama with some solid character work and some nice details that I appreciated and wont spoil here. However, there just weren’t enough horror moments and by the time they do decide to lean towards that it is too little too late, with the capper being the rushed ending. Considering this is a feature-length debut for the director, and clearly a problematic production, I would have thought it would turn out worse than it has, but that’s not a great place for a movie to be in either.