A most interesting product of the nineties filmmaking underground
that mixes B-movie goofiness with then-state of the art video effects.
It’s a raggedy and unpolished film to be sure, but also a fascinating
and genuinely unique one.
THE AGE OF INSECTS was the debut feature by
producer/director Eric Marciano (whose name for some reason is spelled
“Marano” in the credits). As recounted in the 2007 volume
GODS IN SPANDEX,
the film was a student project made under the auspices of NYC’s School
of Visual Arts, filmed over the course of two weeks in the spring of
1984 and completed in 1991--by which point two of its principals,
co-writer Andy Rees and actress K.C. Townsend, had succumbed to AIDS.
It was released on VHS by the late
Film Threat Video
in 1992, and has been MIA ever since.
New York City: “A hive of degeneration as we
approach the millennium.” Here the deranged entomologist Dr. Richard
Benedict, who narrates the film in his own psychotically florid manner
(“Oh glorious dimension that absorbed me in pheromonic bliss as waves
of winged creatures flung themselves at one another”), is looking to
create a new world ruled by “ento-socialism.” He poses as a behavioral
therapist to lure unsuspecting subjects for his demented experiments.
Such a subject is Lance, a delinquent teenager whose father contacts Dr.
Benedict chloroforms his new “mantis egg,” a.k.a.
Lance, and brings him back to his laboratory. There he commences his
demented treatment, involving smearing Lance’s body with some kind of
hallucinogenic oil, watched over by Lance’s understandably nervous
father. The latter reprimands Benedict but allows him to continue the
A wrinkle is introduced in the form of Benedict’s
Indian assistant Sarah, who unexpectedly falls in love with Lance.
There’s also Lance’s ultra-bitchy lingerie designer mother, who turns up
and completely upends things. She’s killed, however, and Sarah assumes
the woman’s job, with Lance acting as the drone to her preying mantis.
This being a no-budget underground film, there’s much
you’ll need to forgive, such as the stilted acting, cut-rate sound
mixing and ultra-grainy 8mm film stock. If you can get past those things
you’ll find an authentically visionary and assured piece of filmmaking
that incorporates still photography, documentary snippets and extensive
pre-CGI video effects into its narrative, which mixes “reality” and
hallucination in audacious fashion.
It’s all very much in keeping with the 1990s
multi-media aesthetic (evident in the likes of
I WAS A TEENAGE SERIAL KILLER and
NATURAL BORN KILLERS,
both of which THE AGE OF INSECTS predated) that informs the film. In
keeping with that aesthetic, it’s all very jokey and self-aware, which
I’m sure for many of you will be a turn-off, although there is some
on-target satire--as when Marciano spoofs the type of film student
pretension that typifies films like this one in a scene with a guy
filming an orgy intoning “This is reminiscent of my days at USC!”
THE AGE OF INSECTS
American Montage, Inc. Film Threat Video
Director/Producer: Eric Marciano
Screenplay: Pete Christian Hall, Andy Rees
Cinematography: Ricardo Tuma, Ignacio Valero
Editing: Eric Shefter
Cast: Jack Ramey, Lisa Zane, K.C. Townsend, Louis Homyak, Pierre
Brulatour, Heather Woodbury, Dallas Munro