Title: The Millennium Bug
Writer-director: Kenneth Cran
Starring: John Charles Meyer, Jessica Simmons, Christine Haeberman, Jon Briddell, Ken McFarlane, Ginger Pullman
A world premiere presentation at the just underway Dances With Films festival, ‘The Millennium Bug’ boasts a simple, streamlined concept, and features poster art that strongly echoes Sam Raimi’s ‘The Evil Dead’, so one could be forgiven for prematurely celebrating the birth into the genre world of a groovy, gory and blissfully self-aware new creature feature. Unfortunately, writer-director Kenneth Cran’s film, while admirably incorporating some low-tech elements, never has any fun with its zonkers conceit, and even touches let alone rises above the sum of its cliched parts.
The movie is on New Year’s Eve, 1999, as Byron (Jon Briddell) takes his new wife Joany (Jessica Simmons) and 18-year-old daughter Clarissa (Christine Haeberman, the second runner-up on VH-1’s ‘Scream Queens 2’) camping. Hoping to escape the Y2K computer glitch (aka “the millennium bug”) that he believes will cause the civilized world all sorts of problems, Byron drives his family deep into the Sierra Diablos mountains, to an abandoned lumberjack town known as Mason’s Grove. What he doesn’t count on, however, is a rampaging clan of in-bred hillbillies, who — in part since Pearlene (Ginger Pullman) has recently birthed another deformed monstrosity — abduct the trio and drag them back to their secluded cabin in an effort to replenish their stagnant, infested gene pool.
While Byron and Joany are held elsewhere, the family prepares Clarissa for her “wedding” to young Billa (John Charles Meyer), the group’s hotheaded leader-in-waiting. What none of these folks know, however, is that a giant, fanged bug — a phenomenon that excited cryptozoologist Roger Patterson (Ken McFarlane) has been tracking for most of his adult life — is about to be born in their neck of the woods, and enter the world none too peacefully.
It goes without saying that to find any modicum of enjoyment herein one must immediately submit to ‘The Millennium Bug”s concept, and ignore the fact that no teenager could be dragged camping out with his/her parents on New Year’s Eve, much less be cheery and outwardly OK with it. On a DIY technical level, the film deserves a tip of the cap for its 1/6th scale miniatures, and an animatronic, cable-controlled monster suit worn by actor and stunt coordinator Benjamin Watts.
Unfortunately, while its inspiration may lay in movies like ‘The Evil Dead’ and ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, as well as a rich litany of Japanese creature features, ‘The Millennium Bug’ wears a lot of these influences too readily on its sleeve. The hillbilly characters especially (and all their behaviors) are just a yawning collection of things seen many times before, from an old man picking feverishly on his banjo to a deformed, Quasimodo-like sibling. The characters shout and hoot and holler in menacing fashion, and there’s no particular rhyme or reason to the mock-creepy set design of their rotting cabin. Other tidbits, too, don’t track or follow, as when Billa curses, is admonished not to do by a fired shotgun… and then immediately curses again, free of consequence. It sounds idiotic, simplistic and perhaps more than a little unfair to criticize a movie like this for being all surface and no clever subtext, but ‘The Millennium Bug’ never deepens in intrigue in any fashion that might grab or focus your attention beyond the fleeting moment.
There’s a bit of colorfully captured gore here, and a scant few moments of the film’s cinematography offer a wink and nudge (think monster perspectives), but ‘The Millennium Bug’ otherwise leans too heavily on darkness to mask its limited production means. Some monster stories should just stay buried.
Written by: Brent Simon