Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Love Practical Effects? Hate CGI? Meet The Millennium Bug!


While most horror fans sit back in their computer chairs and hate on the ever present and destructive force of computer generated imagery in modern day horror films, filmmaker Kenneth Cran recently decided to take matters into his own hands, and actually do something about it.  Since he really hasn't been happy with the lack of practical effects on display in the horror films being made nowadays, Cran figured why not just make his own monster movie, the way monster movies used to be made; without the help of a computer.  Ah, what a novel idea!
Thus, The Millennium Bug was born, an old school monster movie that just hit DVD this past December.  The very first feature film release from the production company No CGI Films (and in fact, Cran's debut feature as well), Millennium Bug indeed has not a single ounce of computer generated imagery in its 90 minute run time, an impressive feat that has resulted in it being a much talked about film in the horror community, a community full of fans who for the most part, are as sick of the destructive force of CGI in horror films as Mr. Cran is.
And there's nobody who's more fed up with rampant horror movie CGI than yours truly.  As far as I'm concerned, bad/excessive CGI is enemy #1 of the modern day horror movie, and I honestly don't know how much longer I can continue watching horror films, if this disturbing trend continues.  It was practical effects that are largely responsible for making me fall in love with horror movies, and it's shitty looking computer generated effects that are quite frankly responsible for diminishing that love, over the years.  Hate to say it, but it's true.


But this here post tonight is not an angry rant about CGI, and how much I hate it.  Rather, it's a celebration of the much nicer looking other side of the coin; practical effects.  And that's precisely what The Millennium Bug is; a balls to the wall, blood soaked, creature filled celebration of the dying art of the practical effect.  It's a love letter to the glory days of the old school B-grade monster movie, and for that, I can't help but love it.  A whooole lot.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
What is The Millennium Bug about, you ask?  Well, the film mostly takes place in the early morning hours of January 1st, 2000, when the world was supposed to be crippled by that whole Y2K mumbo jumbo, where a computer glitch was supposedly going to result in the whole world essentially imploding.  This glitch was referred to as 'The Millennium Bug', which is where the film derives its title from.
So a few hours before the ball drops, this dude drives his young daughter and his new wife (not the daughter's mother, who passed away many years prior to the events of the film) out into the woods, to an old abandoned ghost town.  He's taking no chances with the 'Millennium Bug', and he figures his family will be safe out there, being so far removed from technology and all.

Of course, the clock strikes midnight and nothing that was supposedly going to happen to the world actually happens.  No, something far worse happens.  The man has accidentally brought his family to the one place in the world where an actual monster sized bug is about to be born, an event that takes place once every thousand years.  And so, in an effort to escape "the millennium bug", the man and his family come face to face with THE MOTHERFUCKIN' MILLENNIUM BUG.  Oh, the irony!
Oh yea and lest I forget.  There's also a big time sub-plot in there about a hillbilly inbred family, who are living out there in the woods.  They've apparently fled the set of Wrong Turn 7, and they're looking for a normal looking young girl to impregnate, so their family can finally start getting themselves on the right track.  And not be all mutated and gross and shit.
Nice little family, meet inbred mutant family.  Both families, meet ... THE MILLENNIUM BUG!
 Now I'm not gonna let the practical effects that run gloriously rampant in this film cloud my judgement and reduce me to a blubbering fanboy; the fact of the matter is, as a movie, The Millennium Bug is essentially Syfy fare, with writing and acting that you'd find on any given Saturday night, on that channel.  Rather, the strong suit of The Millennium Bug is the aspect of it that brought the film to my attention, and got me so excited to see it; the practical effects, which indeed do run rampant throughout much of the film, gloriously so.  The best way I can sum it up is that this movie shows how much fun your run of the mill Syfy film could be, if only all the CGI in those films was replaced by competently executed practical effects.  Sure would be nice, wouldn't it?!

So is it a great horror movie?  No, it's really not.  But the awesome practical effects alone make it worth cuddling up on the couch and spending some time with, and it's sure to entertain and bring a big ole nostalgic smile to the face of anyone who, like me, is sick and tired of CGI, and wants a nice little slice of throwback monster madness, to remind themselves why they fell in love with horror films in the first place.  That's really what Millennium Bug is all about, and if you just let yourself have fun with it, you're likely to have a blast watching this movie.

Even before the titular creature is birthed onto the screen, Millennium Bug is chock full of incredible creature and gore effects, whether a deformed hillbilly baby is being birthed right before our very eyes (in close up!), or we're seeing the after effects of a dude getting a bullet to the face.  It all looks spectacular, in that somewhat cheesy '80s sort of way.  Gotta love it.

When the so called Millennium Bug does enter the picture, that's when things get real fun.  The bug is absolutely MASSIVE, the kind of creature that you'd think would never be able to come to life, on the screen, without the use of CGI.  Somehow, despite the film's small budget, Cran and his team made it happen, entirely practically.  In some shots, the bug is played by a guy in a rubber suit, and in other shots, a giant marionette of the creature is being puppeted around, with forced perspective shots and miniature sets bringing it to life, in all its massive glory.  Let me tell you, it's been a loooooong damn time since I've seen a monster of this size that wasn't created on the computer, and again, for that alone, this film is worth seeing and supporting.  So damn impressive.
No, the new millennium didn't bring along with it destruction at the hands of technology, but it did usher in a whole different kind of destruction, on a much smaller scale; the replacement of true makeup effects artists, on movie sets, by that technology.  The Millennium Bug admirably combats that CGI revolution, and harkens back to the glory days, when real people were creating real creatures, right before our very eyes.  Millennium Bug is a true do it yourself effort, like so few horror movies of this millennium have been, and that's something to be admired and appreciated.  Though I do kinda wish those awesome effects were given some better material to play around in, I still can't help but have a whole lot of love for The Millennium Bug, and I hope that it's only the beginning of Kenneth Cran and No CGI Films' efforts to keep the art of practical effects alive.
This movie really shows the importance of practical effects in horror movies, and how they can make even not so great horror movies a real blast to kick back with a beer and watch.  I mean really, if ya think about it, the reason we love most of the old school slasher films that we do so love is largely because of the awesome gore effects on display in them, am I right?  Take that away, and a lot of those '80s gems wouldn't really even be worth sitting through.  Makes me happy to see that there are still filmmakers out there who understand the importance of effects, and who are looking to entertain fellow fans the same way those films from back in the day did, and continue to do.  So kudos to everyone involved in this project for that.  I can only hope that other horror filmmakers of the future learn from you folks.

If you hate CGI, and you love practical effects, I strongly recommend you pick up Millennium Bug, and give it a watch.  You won't find too many horror films out there these days that tap into the old school DIY spirit that this film successfully does, and I promise you're gonna have a blast spending some time with the creatures, monsters and over the top gore effects on display here.  So wash some of that bad CGI taste out of your mouth, and cuddle up with The Millennium Bug as soon as possible!


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