How does this sound – ‘Predator meets Eight Legged Freaks in this terrifying jungle terror’, as quoted from the press release? Sounds like something to pass the time in a manner to which we’re all accustomed, does it not? Naturally, this is low-budget, SyFy stuff featuring nobody you’ve ever heard of but giant beasties in a jungle setting is always going to be a winner… isn’t it?
On the trail of her missing father, entomologist Gina Humphries (Dominika Juliett) and her friend/colleague Rhonda (Nikolette Noel) go deep into the rainforest to find out what happened to the missing scientist. After getting arrested by the US military the pair persuade commanding officer John Hammond (Corin Nemec) to put together a team and try to help find Dr. Humphries, but during their outing they run into the local guerilla soldiers, led by voodoo priest Jaguar (Gildon Rowland), and a violent shootout ensues, although it isn’t the soldiers that present the biggest threat when a swarm of giant killer wasps interrupt proceedings and force Hammond, Humphries and the rest of the group to look for their nest for clues to the whereabouts of the missing doctor.
So as you can tell we’re really in B-movie – or should that be wasp-movie? (sorry!) – territory here, and if giant bug movies are what gets you excited then you would think looking at the plot summary that you would be in for a good time here. The thing is that you can either go one of two ways with a film like this; you can either go the tongue-in-cheek, not-taking-it-too-seriously route such as Tremors, Lake Placid or Starship Troopers or you can go completely straight like Mimic or Empire of the Ants. Dragon Wasps isn’t quite sure which way it wants to go and, as such, doesn’t ever quite take off in either direction.
You know going in to a film like this that the acting and special effects aren’t going to be great – in fact, that’s pretty much part of the charm of these films – but Dragon Wasps pleasantly surprises in one of those areas at least, because for the main part the acting is pretty good. Corin Nemec steals the show as Hammond, the jungle-fatigued veteran who has seen enough bloodshed but doesn’t want to leave, and seems to know that he’s not in a Hollywood blockbuster (he also co-produced the film). His interplay with the equally convincing Benjamin Easterday as soldier Meyers is probably the backbone of the film and suggests that they were aware they were doing a low-rent sci-fi comedy. Dominika Juliett is also good but the rest of the supporting cast are all pretty awful, particularly Gildon Rowland as Jaguar, whose stilted delivery and uneven accent do get very irritating. And despite the fact that they’re not unpleasant to look at, Dominika Juliett and Nikolette Noel will never, ever pass for scientists no matter how much scientific claptrap they spout.
The other thing that lets the film down is the fact that there isn’t that much giant wasp action. The special effects aren’t great but that’s not really a problem as this was hardly ever going to trouble the like of Aliens in terms of creating believable creepy crawlies, but in terms of screen time there is too much time spent between encounters with the insects waffling about missing fathers and how to repel wasps with cocaine and not enough actual battles. Maybe it’s a budgetry thing but like a slasher film that doesn’t have a kill every ten minutes it gets very dull very quick.
So is Dragon Wasps worth your time? Hard to say, really. It’s adequate enough to provide a few chuckles during the insect attacks, there’s loads of machine gun action, some eye candy and a few decent performances that keep it from being a total disaster. But despite the running time being kept to under 90 minutes, the dialogue-heavy plot does make it feel a lot longer and the CGI wasp swarms do look like they’ve come from a Commodore 64. Had there been a little more knowing humour in the script and the supporting performances then the comical effects would have been forgiven and probably would have added to the B-movie charm, but as it is you have a slightly confused film with mostly serious performances and dodgy special effects that falls short of the mark that even ‘so bad they’re good’ B-movies should hit. Try it but don’t say you weren’t warned.