Review The Swarm: Killing Grasshopper Strike

If we can find French productions sometimes too cautious when stepping out of certain comfort zones, we can’t deny that risk taking exists and it can pay off. Which got us interested in Cloud.

The main winner of the 2021 edition of the Gérardmer Fantastic Film Festival with his friend Teddy, another genre film also distributed by The Jokers (who continued to invest in the original production), La Nués is suffering from the pandemic. Therefore, after several delays, this film will soon hit our theaters… like a cloud (easy).

Virginie (Suliane Brahim, seen recently in Hors Normes), a widow and mother of two, runs a grasshopper farm to sell flour. Except that things are bad. The grasshoppers no longer reproduce enough to produce enough flour. For her children, the situation becomes increasingly unbearable and the whole family is in danger of falling apart. After an unfortunate fall, he might find a solution to his problem. But the consequences can be dire…

La Nuee is part of a tradition, we would say French to be chauvinistic, of a genre cinema that puts humans at the center of its horror stories. We followed Virginia’s evolution first, then her chicks and finally the ever-increasing grasshoppers, to include the others. The feature film Just Philippot is a descent into hell where society destroys man until he has nothing left but his life. At the foot of the wall, the latter then plays with rebellious nature. Anyone who sees in it the condemnation of the ill effects of capitalism can’t be wrong, this film doesn’t hide its intentions.

With its emphasis on human relationships and their excesses, La Nués is on the same list as the magnificent Tomb. Here too, it is the man who drives to the horror and not the other way around. The elements remain from the start, but the tension creeps in without a sudden change in tone. Discomfort is created by a slight touch, then increasing strength until the result, however inevitable, almost surprises us. The clouds are playing tricks on us, maybe too much (we’ll come back to this).

The moist atmosphere supported by the sound mix of the most beautiful effects, creates an invisible, but very real threat, represented by the deep crunch of grasshoppers. Immersive atmosphere that drains your guts. Likewise, we can pay homage to the staging of the director, who made his film almost documentary as soon as he filmed his infernal insects close-up. Disgust then takes shape and has several legs.

All the elements thus come together for a climax that has no raw ideas or images. Careful, we’re not talking about the dry scare caused by the jump scare already seen in Hollywood genre productions. No, we are talking about the real sensation that results from the encounter between the madness of man and the fury of the changing nature. We set out for the pinnacle of incredible efficiency, capable of terrifying anyone with insects.

Nevertheless, La Nurée cannot avoid a recurring problem when French cinema tends to mix genres (horror film and social drama here): the fluidity of its narrative. A bit like The Last Voyage you recently praised, this film has a hard time telling itself from time to time and suffers from some length, even giving the impression of spinning a little bit at times. We have the feeling of watching a perfect medium-length film that reveals its flaws with the desire to turn into a feature.

Which doesn’t fail to create frustration. The barely fulfilled expectations of seeing the director let his horse take off with his fantastical aspects much earlier, where he’d rather continue in between these are probably too long for his own good. We then come across a thorny problem: this intersection of genres is the salt of La Nués, but it can also prevent it from finding its audience…

If one were to take the risk of pre-release pessimistic analysis, one would be inclined to think that horror movie lovers wouldn’t have enough truly gruesome content to bite into, and those seeking social drama risk resisting the inconvenience that latent horror creates. Faced with stiff competition since the reopening of cinemas, La Nués can bet on its solid original proposal, but isn’t sure that the public will be convinced. We hope he makes us lie, he deserves it.