The giant bug movie is a concept that waxes and wanes but never fully goes away. Perhaps this is because it appeals to the “monster kid” that lives inside the people who make monster flicks and the people who watch them. Mosquito emerged from the same early ’90s period that produced Skeeter and Ticks. Like its contemporaries, it relied on home video audiences for its success rather than the big screen. It was able to amass a small but devoted cult following because it’s the kind of spirited b-movie that delivers exactly what it promises.
Mosquito kicks off in classic ’50s monster movie style with a spaceship crash-landing on earth and one of its dying aliens being bitten by a hungry mosquito. In short order, mutant mosquitoes the size of pterodactyls are flying around the campgrounds nearby. Thrown into this chaos are a traveling couple (Rachel Loiselle and Tim Lovelace), a scientist (Steve Dixon), a goofball ranger (Ron Asheton) and a bank robber (Gunnar Hansen). The group must overcome their differences and put their smarts to the test as the insect menace around them grows bigger and more resourceful.
The results are a crowd-pleaser for the monster movie crowd because the whole enterprise is geared towards gleeful, bug-splattering cheap thrills. The opening act takes a little time to get rolling with all the intros of the film’s ensemble but once it gets going, it never lets up. It helps that Mosquito was helmed by erstwhile FX man Gary Jones, who takes each and every opportunity to deliver the goods in a variety of special effects disciplines: stop-motion FX, opticals, latex makeup effects, large puppets, scale models and, of course, plenty of explosive bug-splatter.
Some of the effects are a little ragged in spots, particularly some of the bug-oriented opticals, but the b-movie junkies in the audience won’t care. The sum total of these effects adds up to monster-kid nirvana. Jones deploys them with confidence and imagination and builds some impressive setpieces along the way – the best might be a wild midnight ride that involves the heroes fighting off countless mosquitoes in an RV hurtling down a darkened road. There are also smaller-scale highlights that show off a sleazy sense of humor, like a pair of amorous campers being attacked in a tent (you even get a mosquito stinging the naked female of the duo in a buttock).
It’s also worth noting that Mosquito has a likeable amateur cast. Lovelace and Noiselle make solid average-joe heroes but Dixon is really impressive as the stoic scientist, as good at being tough as he is at being brainy. It‘s a shame that he didn’t do movie genre films. Asheton has fun camping it up as the film’s goofball comic relief and Hansen, best known as Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, underplays to interesting effect as the bad guy who reluctantly turns good. In a nice touch, Jones allows him to take on mosquitoes during the finale with a chainsaw(!).
Simply put, Mosquito is the kind of movie that an older viewer might have hoped to stumble across on the late late show. It works because it never tries to be anything it isn’t – there are no pro-ecology themes or attempts at serious drama – and it instead concentrates on giving the monster movie crowd all the good stuff its modest budget can handle.