My main memory of The Nest is seeing the cover at my local video store way back when local video stores existed. I’m writing this before I’ve gone and looked for movie images so hopefully I found it (edit: I totally didn;t), but the cover is just a giant cockroach grabbing on to a half-naked woman. I prided myself on being able to handle a variety of goopy gore in my horror movies even back then, but killer cockroaches sounded way too disgusting for my young mind to handle. Grown-up mind however is completely ready, though that cover is still pretty god damn gross.
The Nest is the kind of the movie that doesn’t require a whole lot of set-up. We’re on an island, there’s a sheriff, a love-interest for this sheriff, a colorful supporting cast of kooky side characters, and a couple of potentially evil scientists who have been experimenting on cockroaches. These scientists have clearly never seen any movie otherwise they would know experimenting on things always leads to said things murdering people. It happens 100% of the time guys, the math checks out, you probably shouldn’t have done this.
We know immediately we don’t like these cockroaches as their first victim is a dog. Then we know we hate these fucking cockroaches because their second victim is a cat. However the cat is more the responsibility of the scientists as they capture and trap it, so in this moment I knew I was invested in their deaths. Turns out becoming a cat owner has completely altered the way I watch horror movies. It used to sort of bother me to see a cat die in a horror movie, but now that I have my own two cats, it infuriates me and I immediately need to see the character responsible die. I don’t stand for that shit anymore. This movie was a great example of my Death Wish-esque desire for kitty justice. No amount of human death got me to care as much as that cat.
So anyway mutant cockroaches happen on this island and that’s about it for plot. It’s an icky concept and they get some pretty good mileage out of that with various shots of cockroaches crawling all over people and appearing in a variety of food products. Plus that noise the cockroaches make is just piercing to the ears and they use it a lot. The problem with the idea is that it’s really hard to depict cockroaches actually attacking people, especially on what must have been a very low budget. This leads to lots of POV shots of a “roach” approaching a victim, then a shot of them screaming while roaches just kind of stand on them. There are also numerous wide shots where the roaches being used are clearly fake so they are just lying there motionless. It’s pretty hard to take the horror of the situation too seriously when the characters are screaming at what appear to be a series of stationary rubber pieces. I can’t knock the movie too much for this since, as I said, I can’t imagine the studio threw a lot of money at the “killer cockroach” production. They do what they can with it and thanks to some clever editing, it works decently well.
Where the movie definitely succeeds better is with its gore effects. These cockroaches flat out devour people so there are lots of shots of people with skin missing or just completely covered with giant bug bites. However shit gets really nuts in the final act where the movie apparently decided it wasn’t crazy enough and reveals that the roaches can actually take on the form of anything they have eaten. It seemed to come out of nowhere and it immediately made me wish they had brought this concept into the equation far sooner. By the time it’s mentioned there’s about only 10 minutes of movie left but in that time we do get a cat/roach hybrid that clearly is just being thrown at the actors by someone just off camera (it’s pretty incredible), we see a human being turn into a cockroach and stepping on his own popped out eyeball, and we get to see a hybrid of everything the roaches have consumed throughout the entire movie which is just this giant melting point of insanity and weird faces. These are certainly not the best special effects that you will ever see, especially considering most of these creatures don’t even move around, but they are appropriately goopy, quite original and overall well put together.
I’m sure you can guess that this movie does not take itself too seriously. As interesting as it could be to see a killer cockroach movie where roaches eat people and also turn into cats that plays out as a serious drama, this is probably the better route. It doesn’t go too jokey but it clearly understands that the whole concept is pretty goofy so it’s just the right amount of campy.
The Nest is also by no means a legitimately scary movie since it’s incredibly tricky for roaches to jump out and surprise anyone. It’s through the concept and a few set-pieces that The Nest becomes surprisingly effective. The stand-out scene is where a lady is trapped in bed, unable to move due to a broken leg, as the bugs swarm all over her and she screams for help from her niece in the other room who can’t hear her on account of ridiculous 80’s headphones. The idea of being forced to lie there as you watch a bunch of cockroaches eat you alive is not something I had ever thought about it, so thanks movie for burrowing that one into my nightmares forever.
Overall The Nest is a perfectly enjoyable 80’s monster movie. The characters are bland but reasonably likeable, you have some good drippy gore effects, and an idea that is not wholly original but is at least given some new spins. It was way better than I expected it to be and you know what, I’ll go ahead and give this one a recommendation.