Netflix's French Horror Movie 'The Swarm' Breeds a Flock of Freaky Locusts
They vant to suck your bloooooood.
Weirdly, living through an actual pandemic has caused plenty of people to actively consume all the Plague Content they can get their hands on, from Albert Camus' The Plague (whose sales skyrocketed in 2020) to movies like Outbreak and Contagion (both of which, as soon as lockdown went into effect in America, it seemed like everyone was watching). Is it therapeutic? Masochistic? A "well, at least what I'm going through is not as bad as THAT" compulsion? No one can agree. If your Plague Content tastes have shifted recently from the viral to the Biblical, French horror movie The Swarm, now available on Netflix, is for you.
Single mother Virginie (Suliane Brahim) lives in a rural community with her two children, breeding locusts in plastic-wrapped enclosures that she sells by the pound as livestock feed to local ranchers. Her son Gaston (Raphael Romand) thinks the bugs are cool, even keeping a few in a terrarium in his bedroom, but her daughter Laura (Marie Narbonne) is sick of being made fun of by the local kids for her mother's gross job and is desperate to move away. Soon enough, Virginie discovers that the locusts have a taste for blood, and, in secret, begins infusing it into their feed, setting up more breeding houses in their yard as their population increases. Obviously, things go wrong as soon as the locusts develop a taste for animal flesh (no animal introduced at the beginning of the film survives to the end), and then for humans.
It's a distinctly feel-bad movie with all of the horror of something like Arachnophobia and none of the levity, sticking instead to characterizing a mother's neglect of her children in favor of her insectoid offspring. The best part, of course, is the locusts themselves, which shake their mesh-lined enclosures and appear in high-definition close-ups, wobbling on their spined legs up a window and gazing balefully at the camera with their compound puppy-dog eyes. The whole movie is scored by the locusts' horrid whirring (triggering for anyone on the East Coast who experienced the Brood X birth this year), always buzzing away in the background of nearly every scene.
It's also one of the most supremely gross movies of this year: Locust bodies are poured like peanut husks into shipping bags, a locust chews off a part of a child's finger, Virginie mixes blood with gelatin to make dark red hunks of locust feed, the finale delights in the gory bloodbath the movie builds up to. The bugs themselves are horrifying, but it's the sound that will stick with you, looking over your shoulder every time you hear an insect start to buzz.