The newest offering from streaming service Shudder comes in the form of bizarre psychological horror film, Mosquito State. It takes the body horror of Cronenberg and tries to modernize it with clumsy metaphors. A premise this instantly ridiculous begs for the embracing of its campy sensibilities. Co-writer and director, Filip Jan Rymsza, is far more interested in staying deathly serious in tone. Its strict adherence to stiff structure (and complete lack of playfulness beyond the narrative section breaks) makes Mosquito State a slog, especially in the final act.
Set in August 2007, on the cusp of the greatest financial crisis of our time, Mosquito State follows an oddball Wall Street data analyst Richard (Beau Knapp), who has created a jackpot-making algorithm for his firm. Richard is a weird outsider with only fleeting connections to his coworkers. He has casual sex with Lena (Charlotte Vega), but his true love is a lone mosquito that makes its way into his penthouse apartment.
Richard wakes up with a single massive bite on his cheek, wearing it like a badge of honor. One mosquito soon turns to swarms—their number grows exponentially as Richard’s algorithm begins to behave erratically. The welts all over Richard fester into gargantuan tumors. He never seems bothered by any of this, and is fully okay with the mosquitos feasting on him nightly. I was disgusted and itchy during Mosquito State, and anyone else grossed out by bugs will feel the same.
As Richard’s face grows more swollen, I was flustered as to the lack of care for the physicality of his body. When he goes out on a dinner date at one point in a tux, looking especially worse for wear, they barely seem to notice or care about his condition. It may have been because Richard was already weird and off-putting to begin with. There is never a Geena Davis in The Fly level of reaction to anything here, even from Lena. She shares tender moments of discussion with Richard, as if he is not teeming with gnarly bug bites.
Puzzlingly, both IMDB and Letterboxd classify Mosquito State as a drama. I appreciate the efforts of Filip Jan Rymsza to stray outside genre norms, striving to pool metaphorical subtext into algorithmic data loss. The utterly bizarre title design, showing the stages of a mosquito birth, then following a CGI-mosquito straight into Richard’s NYC building, teases cleverness and dark comedy. That Mosquito State is unable to live up to this impressive opening is majorly disappointing.
Mosquito State buzzes its way onto Shudder on Thursday, August 26th.