AgeOfInsects1A 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.

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 treatment.

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 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!”

Vital Statistics

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