The video rental business was booming throughout the ’90s. From mom-and-pops to huge chains and even several well-known grocery stores, it seemed like everybody wanted in on the action. With the increasing rise and revenue of VHS rentals, filmmakers saw a big opportunity: bypass theaters altogether and release movies directly to the video market. The horror genre, which is well known for smaller budgets and a rabid fan base, was ripe for success within that relatively new business model.
It’s common knowledge that standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. So what happens when an insect’s natural habitat is polluted by toxic waste? Obviously, in the world of horror movies, nothing good. The VHS box art includes the tagline, “Earth is the final breeding ground“, a statement that hints at something along the lines of an extraterrestrial invasion flick but instead, deals with a different kind of invasion. And with that in mind, I’m discussing Skeeter, traditionally seen as a creature-feature, as a home invasion flick.
“…what happens when an insect’s natural habitat is polluted by toxic waste? Obviously, in the world of horror movies, nothing good.”
Skeeter stars Tracy Griffith (Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland), Jim Youngs (Footloose), Jay Robinson (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), William Sanderson (TV’s True Blood), and Charles Napier (The Silence of the Lambs). The movie was directed by Clark Brandon from a screenplay he co-authored with Lanny Horn and Joseph Luis Rubin. Skeeter was released direct-to-video on April 6, 1994.
Both the premise and plot of Skeeter are startlingly simple and familiar: a land developer disposes of toxic waste in the mines around the small desert town of Clear Sky. The chemicals cause the mosquitoes to mutate into monsters, and the film’s protagonists must fight to save themselves along with the rest of the town where the events are taking place.
Horror movies exploring the premise of nature turning against man is nothing new. The concept obviously harkens back to the giant insect movies of the 1950s and was later continued via a steady stream of late-night creature features during the 1980s. With the similarly themed Ticks and another mosquito-focused flick, Mosquito, being released in close proximity to this one, the early ’90s saw a small resurgence in the sub-genre. So what exactly makes Skeeter stand out from the rest?
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From beginning to end, Skeeter‘s special effects are a lot of fun to watch. The production uses a combination of CGI and practical effects for the giant insects. The design of the mutated mosquitoes is appropriate in a fun, b-movie kind of way. The storyline moves along at the pace of what it is: an action/sci-fi/horror hybrid. Director Clark Brandon does a good job handling the multi-genre mash-up, and the cinematography has a clean, colorful look that keeps the film centered on an appropriately campy tone.
“…not just the b-movie aesthetics that make Skeeter a worthwhile creature-feature…”
Digging deeper, it’s not just the b-movie aesthetics that make Skeeter a worthwhile creature feature, though. Ultimately, it is a story about place. The idea of someone’s home being invaded, and the eventual reaction to that disturbance, is what makes the movie more interesting and thought-provoking than the silly premise lets on.
After the toxic waste turns Skeeter‘s insects into the deadly, flying creatures viewers are tuning in for, the swarm quickly descends upon the small town and begins to attack the locals. How do people react when their home is threatened? Sadly, a lot of them run away from the danger. By abandoning their home, the people of Clear Sky are giving in to the agenda of the movie’s primary human antagonist: a greedy land developer who wants the land within the town for himself so that he can fulfill his own money-hungry desires.
Due to the toxic chemicals being poured into their own home, the mosquitoes’ mutation is far beyond their own control. On the other hand, the human reaction to what is happening is a choice. Skeeter‘s inciting incident propels the townsfolk into a state of natural instinct. The contrast between those who turn their backs and the ones who decide to fight for their home is where the line between strong character traits is drawn.
A common thread among home invasion thrillers is that of the characters defending what is rightfully theirs. As if the plot point hasn’t already been made clear by Skeeter’s primary protagonists, it is reiterated during the finale. The third act of the movie follows the leads as they do what has already been done to them: they invade the home of the insects. What happens next is no surprise at all: the mosquitoes fight back, and it all leads to a fiery climax.
“What happens next is no surprise at all: the mosquitoes fight back, and it all leads to a fiery climax.”
By the end of Skeeter, various themes of home invasion are put to good use, both in the form of the home town of Clear Sky as well as that of the mosquitoes’ home in the local mines. Looping back around to the VHS box’s tagline, “Earth is the final breeding ground”, the movie hints at the idea of “home” as being on a much larger scale than what’s contained within the film’s running time. All of this adds an additional layer to what appears to be at first glance nothing more than a giant insect creature feature.
Have you seen Skeeter? Are you a fan? How do you rank it among your favorite mutated insect movies? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!