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Bug Buster (1998)

A scrappy little mutant insect picture, with a diffuse script and a clutch of semi-interesting guest players. Thirteen years after an experimental pesticide has been used against the advice of entomologist Hiro Fujimoto (George Takei) who claims it will cause mutations, Veronica Hart (Meredith Salenger) bathing in a rural lake is bitten by a fish which turns out to be incubating a clutch of mutant roach eggs. Bug-phobic heroine Shannon Griffin (Katherine Heigl) is new in town because her parents (Anne Lockhart, Bernie Kopell) have bought the local hotel. Business slacks off when a bunch of walk-on players are reduced to gory skeletons by ravenous insects. The local doctor (Brenda Doumani, graduate of the Director's Wife School of Dramatic Art) studies the life cycle of the creatures and consults Takei, who deduces that there's a human-sized mother bug (Doug Jones, of Hellboy) hiding out in the abandoned mine. Deputy Bo (Ty O'Neill) calls in Vietnam veteran exterminator 'General George S. Merlin' (Randy Quaid), but it turns out that the sheriff (James Doohan) is in league with the monster as part of a real-estate scam (!).

It's surprisingly ruthless in its willingness to kill off endearing players haphazardly, but still too jokey to have much emotional affect, with most of the guest cast taking a broadly comic approach, like 'Downtown' Julie Brown (not the actress-singer-writer of Earth Girls Are Easy) as an amazingly crass reporter covering the crisis. The finale, which involves Bo roping the flying mother bug from a horse, is at once silly and spirited, but it has the usual last-minute kick ending. With Dennis Fimple, Johnny Legend and Melba Toast as rural redneck stereotypes. Directed by Lorenzo Doumani.

First published in this form here.

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