“The Swarm” is “Jean de Florette” meets “Little Shop of Horrors.”
It’s about an idealistic, “try something new” farmer who breeds bugs, only to discover that blood is what makes them thrive.
Only the French could think up this high concept variation on a buggy creature feature starring locusts.
It’s creepy and cautionary and culinary, because locusts have “more protein” per gram than any meat on the market. And “pretty soon, the entire planet will be starving, but you’re all too dumb to notice.
Suliane Brahim is Virginie, a struggling 40ish farm widow hellbent on keeping the land she and her late husband dreamed on. He thought goats were the way to go. He’s gone and she’s crunched the numbers and decided roasted locusts are the smarter bet.
But the strain has infuriated her young teen daughter Laura (Marie Narbonne) and upset her tween son Gaston (Raphael Romand). She’s annoyed her retail buyer and asked for one too many loans from vintner friend Karin (Sofian Khammes).
It doesn’t matter that they can be prepared in delectable “smoked paprika” or ginger-flavored ways. Her online support may keep the geodesic dome greenhouse hives alive, but they won’t thrive. She’s desperate, wearing fear and fury on her face.
And then our “Jean de Florette” makes her “Audrey” in “Little Shop” discovery.
Just Philippot’s film is a leisurely, somewhat tense amble down We Know What’s Coming Lane.
The twist to the classic “when bugs attack” thriller is that “Little Shop” touch, what the locusts and the desire to succeed do to Virginie.
The script finds clever ways to point us towards the “eureka” moment we know is coming — a little boy marveling at what a “pet” locust does to wart.
Icky locust closeups — eating, molting, cannibalizing, carnivore-ing — add to the fun.
The formula is the same in Hollywood or Caubeyres (Lot-et-Garonne), in English (dubbed) or the original French.
We see the first hint of “success,” and fret about its cost. We meet characters named Jacki and Huegette, and we get a sick feeling about their fate.
Brahim gives a fine fraught edge to Virginie, and Narbonne is reassuringly bratty, a teen with legitimate grief and beefs, but lashing out in ways that can only make things worse.
I thought the story had a few missteps, which may just be a reaction to lax French parenting practices. And the pace, when everybody knows the title (“La nuée” in French), seems entirely too deliberate and delicate. There’s a lean 85 minute thriller in this.
But as creature features go, this one plays and finds its pulse-pounding payoff in grand style.
MPA Rating: TV-14, violence, profanity
Cast: Suliane Brahim, Marie Narbonne, Sofian Khammes and Raphael Romand
Credits: Directed by Just Philippot, script by Franck Victor. A Canal+ film on Netflix.
Running time: 1:42