Sci-Fi Channel Original "Larva" Review

Every once in a while, creature fans are rewarded for their patience. After suffering through countless duds, Sci-Fi has finally produced something tolerable, even entertaining, which is really saying something. "Larva" doesn't break any new ground and it is of course horribly formulaic. That doesn't mean this one isn't fun.

Host Tender Meats has introduced a new feed for the cattle in the small town of Host, Missouri. It grows them faster, fatter, and juicer than ever before. The ranchers are happy, the corporation is happy, but a newly appointed town vet (Vincent Ventresca) is not. What he discovers could be the end of the small town and it all leads back to the meat company looking to cover their mistake up.

"Larva" starts off like so many others with the mutilation of animals by the creature(s). Oddly, it manages to follow the usual pattern and build up some tension in the process. It's not exactly the most involving mystery, but it does pull the viewer in early. It moves quickly enough to avoid losing momentum (though there is a spot dead in the center where things grind to a halt for a bit) and keep monster fans intrigued.

Performances are surprisingly admirable, though the lead played by the above mentioned Ventresca (from Fox's "Complete Savages") is fairly weak. Former super model Rachel Hunter plays a completely underdeveloped character and gets pulled in as a main character for no real reason. Still, she is as believable as they come in direct-to-cable creature features.

And what an oddball set of creatures they are. Feeding off their hosts while growing to insane sizes, they seem like a mix of bat and sea louse. Giant pinchers adorn their faces (what little face they actually have) and suck up their victims in gruesome style. It all leads to some outstanding blood and gore effects along with a satisfying body count. The CG effects are a step up from the usual Sci-Fi Channel offering while the traditional effects are even better.

Taken down with a simple bullet, the parasites go down quickly, but make up for their lack of strength with numbers. The finale features hundreds of the beasties in a sewer battle with the four leads. It ends on a rather ridiculous note (how exactly did they kill all of them if the entire town is infected?) and it can't be ignored no matter how great the action is. A few other obvious plot holes aside, this one is more than solid for a movie filmed with a budget of $1.5 million. Credit is due for whoever came up with the idea to name the town "Host" too. It's a small and subtle touch that works.

"Larva" ends up being a rare success story for channel that has put out some of the most awful original tripe in years. Maybe with the start of this new year, this could become a trend. It's not worth holding your breath over, but at least "Larva" is a step in the proper direction.

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