Mosquito State: Not Quite a Plague, by Chase Beck
Quick, what’s the deadliest animal you can think of?
Your mind probably flashed to something with rows of pointed teeth or powerful, sharp claws. You might even be ready with a less conventional pick, guessing that humans are the most dangerous threat to humanity. Statistically speaking, mosquitos pose the greatest risk to humans out of any animal. And, my friends, numbers do not lie: estimates put deaths from mosquitoes at between 1,000,000 and 750,000 per year.
Mosquito State, directed by Filip Jan Rymsza, takes those statistics and runs with them to craft an eerie, unsettling tale about a Wall Street stock market analyst (Beau Knapp) beset upon by these miniscule, metamorphosing monstrosities. And why should they not? Mosquitos have been the vector of a variety of serious illnesses from Malaria to Dengue, to West Nile, to Zika virus.
On paper, it’s a great idea because we’ve all had experiences with these persistent bloodsuckers. And what could be more creepy than having a house full of them? However, somewhere along the way writers Filip Jan Rymsza and Mario Zermeno seem to have lost track of what made this concept so initially unsettling.
There are a few things about this film that I love. It has many great close-ups of mosquitos in all stages of development. This is some of the best macroscopic footage, outside of a nature documentary, I have ever seen. While the film uses CG mosquitos in some cases, much of the closeups are actual developing mosquitos. There is even an impressive rack focus from actor Beau Knapp to a live mosquito and back again. Additionally, The science-loving side of me loves that each of the stages of mosquito growth are not only clearly visible, but also labeled. In a way this movie serves as a sort of big-budget educational film.
I will give Mosquito State credit for completely defying my expectations. Almost every plot development in the film was counter to my predictions. Although, at times these twists bordered on the nonsensical. Unfortunately, Mosquito State fails to fully capitalize on its unique premise. I will admit that, based on the blood-sucking nature of these tiny flies, I was expecting a bit of body horror. However, the make-up effects are more similar to what you would see in a comedy. This film almost avoids horror and horror imagery at every opportunity.
I was severely disappointed by the portrayal of the film’s main character. Why is it that anyone phenomenally good at math also has to have traits of Asperger’s Syndrome? Rain Man might be one of the earliest versions of an idiot savant in film but it seems as if every film since then uses this trope for any character who is capable of seemingly supernatural mathematical understanding. It must make it easier for the casual viewer to suspend disbelief when the protagonist accomplishes something astronomically brilliant if they spend the first half of the film rocking their head back and forth while shambling, fidgeting and being entirely unable to carry on a normal conversation. Beau Knapp is doing a great disservice to people with mental disabilities in his portrayal of Wall Street wunderkind Richard Boca.
Mosquito State revels in long takes and held shots. In many cases it became tedious to watch a film so calculated that it dips into cinematic lethargy. Juxtaposed alongside a human drama, you would expect this tale to effortlessly draw you into a realm of terror and fright. At an hour and 41 minutes, Mosquito State is an interesting, alt-horror film that tries to be a slow burn but does not manage to provide any real payoff.