Shudder Review: Mosquito State (2021)

Directed by Filip Jan Rymsza. Written by Filip Jan Rymsza and Mario Zermeno. Starring Beau Knapp, Charlotte Vega, Jack Kesy. Runtime 1h 40 min. Released on Shudder, August 26 (as a Shudder Exclusive).

Mosquito State is a strange film. Set to the stages of a mosquito’s birth process, Wall Street data analyst Richard Boca (Beau Knapp) is bitten by a Queen mosquito at a work party, as we see the Mosquito soar through the party and land on Boca, like how the spider lands on Peter Parker in Spider-Man.

Instead of super-powers, he’s dealt a worse hand. He goes home with a beautiful wine expert, Lena (Charlotte Vega), where he looks obviously uncomfortable, but mostly because he’s never in this kind-of situation. We can see that he doesn’t like losing control of things around him by how he reacts to drinking corked wine.

This whole beginning sequence is a quiet intro to the character, where we don’t have a sense of his personality. It’s somewhat misleading; where he always seems awkward, but he’s extra uncomfortable around certain people. Then we learn that he’s a jerk as we see him in his work environment, as he’s created a program called the “Honeybee” for a Wall Street firm. These patterns become erratic – he blames that on a co-worker named Beau (Jack Kesy) – and meanwhile Richard is being tormented by the mosquito infestation in his penthouse apartment.

Mosquitos and Wall Street are two very different worlds tethered together by Richard’s obsession. It doesn’t always work thematically, though it’s intriguing as it’s explained he thinks the buzzing represents the pressure he puts on himself to track his program. The film feels more inspired in its horror than corporate world.

Mosquito State
Poster art for Mosquito State. (Courtesy of Shudder.)

As Boca, Beau Knapp turns in a creepy performance, throwing himself into a role that looks entirely uncomfortable, from his face prosthetics from the bites to his hunched posture, where I’m sure he needed some chiropractic readjustments after this one. The way he moves is also eerie. When he’s at his most manic, this strange character seems like one an early career Nicolas Cage might have played.

Those manic moments are where the film is at its most interesting. One such case is when Boca invites the office secretary, Sally (Audrey Wasilewski), into his office. He plays her a baby monitor which has the sound of his buzzing mosquitos, trying to explain it. When she’s not getting it, he says, “If you’ll excuse me, I’m in the middle of a very important conversation.”

I enjoyed Knapp’s performance more than the character himself, as I never found I got this character other than he’s obsessive and now really likes mosquitos. He’s either boring as a character or his dialogue is very scientific or mathematical and isn’t accessible. As well, the film is set in August 2007 so Boca constantly watches the news. At one point, we see Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run. It’s neat, but these moments feel inconsequential, though I’m sure writers Filip Jan Rymsza (who also directs) and Mario Zermeno put careful thought and research into these smaller details.

The film’s still an interesting enough unraveling of a character, but it would be more fascinating if he were likable. As it is, this film got under my skin with its Cronenbergian sensibilities, where the body horror reminded me of Stephen King’s Thinner. The mosquitos themselves reminded me of the cockroach segment in Creepshow, which is etched into the minds of many horror fans.

That creepiness makes Mosquito State feel at least a little worth it in terms of its horror. From the sound design and its buzzing, I found myself constantly scratching, which is an effective but uncomfortable effect. Visually, too, there are some memorable scenes with the mosquitos as they swarm and swirl as once, and it’s convincing VFX work. Filip Jan Rymsza stages his scenes well in Mosquito State, especially for one of my favourite scenes towards the end where Boca blows out some candles. I wish it had that fervor throughout.

Score: 50/100

Now streaming on Shudder.

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