The Nest (originally labouring under the preposterous title The Bewailing) is an eerie, slow-burn horror film likely to appeal hugely to fans of classics such as Invasion of the Bodysnatchers or, indeed, anyone who appreciates a story about the loss of humanity and human identity, the invasion of the physical form and the surreptitious replacement of the self with the other. It’s got creepy insect-things in it too, which is a bit of a plus.
Beth (Sarah Navratil) is addicted to painkillers following the birth of her daughter Meg which nearly killed her. She’s lost her job and her reputation and her marriage to Jack (Kevin Patrick Murphy) has hit the rocks. But there’s a chance for the family to start again when they’re forced to move into Beth’s deceased uncle’s house. At a local yard sale young Meg (Maple Suttles, daughter of the film’s director) becomes fixated on a tatty teddy bear and Beth buys it for her in the hope that it might help to ease the child’s crippling separation anxiety. But the bear hides a terrible secret; inside its belly lurks a crawling parasite creature that quickly infects Meg and changes her behaviour, making her even more clingy and yet also more remote and unfathomable. The creature slowly extends its influence over Beth’s family and eventually she is forced to question her own sanity when everyone around her starts to behave strangely and she has to fight her own addictive nature if she is to hang on to her own humanity.
The Nest is an intriguing and unnerving film and also a slightly frustrating one. As a creature feature it delivers the goods to an extent (although we don’t see a great deal of the parasite itself) and there are a number of scenes in which we hear the clicking sound of the creature inside its host and the odd sight of an insect leg sticking out of someone’s mouth. This body possession element is in itself a familiar and always-disquieting conceit but the film sometimes loses itself in its handling of Beth’s condition and the narrative doesn’t seem entirely sure whether it wants us to think that the whole situation has been conjured up and exacerbated by her addiction or is actually an insidious assault upon the human condition (despite an opening sequence that quite clearly sets out the film’s stall). Eventually though the film seems to decide what it wants to be as Beth, beleaguered on all sides, finally realises that something’s really not right with her family and the body horror moves into high gear in the final reel.
Despite an overlong running time and occasionally suffering from the restraints of its low budget, The Nest (which also features an appearance by E.T. star Dee Wallace) is a haunting and sometimes flesh-crawling experience enlivened by some pleasing practical visual effects and a sense of ambiguity in relation to the nature and purpose of the parasite creature itself. The film takes its time and there are certainly some pacing issues yet it’s never boring as the core idea grips from the opening scene and delivers those moments of disconcerting dread that come with the territory of films in which the individuality of humanity is subsumed by something utterly alien and entirely inhuman.
On DVD and digital from August 16th