MOSQUITO (1995) Blu-ray
Director: Gary Jones
Synapse Films

Mutated giant mosquitoes have "blood fever" in Syanpse's brand-new Blu-ray of the ambitious nineties creature feature MOSQUITO.

When an alien spaceship crash-lands in a swamp, the first Earthling to discover proof of alien life is a mosquito. Given the relatively quick gestation cycle of mosquitoes, it is not long before the Michigan woods are crawling with a dog-sized variety of Aedes aegypti sucking the locals dry. With their radiator punctured by the proboscis of a windshield-splattered insect, new park officer Megan (Rachel Loiselle) and her boyfriend Ray (Tim Lovelace, AXE GIANT) hitch a ride from Parks (Steve Dixon, THE CARRIER), a US Air Force scientist investigating reports of a meteor crash in the area. When they come across the mummified husk of a fisherman still giving off radiation readings, the trio head to the camp where Megan has been stationed to contact the authorities only to discover that it has been decimated by the bloodsuckers. With bumbling park ranger Hendricks (The Stooges' Ron Asheton, WENDIGO), the sole survivor of the camp massacre, they take to the road in an RV in search of civilization only to be ambushed by bank-robbing brothers Earl (Gunnar Hansen, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) and Junior (Mike Hard) – who have already lost cousin Rex (Kenny Mugwump, LEGION OF THE NIGHT) to the mosquitoes – who want to hijack their transportation. The survivors of an attack on the RV wind up on foot and having to rely on each other as they find they have barricaded themselves in the mosquitoes' breeding ground.

MOSQUITO was the feature debut of Gary Jones (BOOGEYMAN 3) who became involved with the Sam Raimi and company post-EVIL DEAD doing make-up effects on THE CARRIER, STRYKER'S WAR/THOU SHALT NOT KILL EXCEPT… by EVIL DEAD second unit technician Josh Becker (who has a cameo as a victim-to-be) and later EVIL DEAD II and ARMY OF DARKNESS. Developed for over a decade before production while Jones was honing his effects know-how, the film does indeed sport some great creature effects and grisly deaths, as well as likable characters and impressive set-pieces. Its conceptual ambition was obviously scaled down, but it works more as an affectionate homage to the fifties/sixties creature feature with some added sex and gore even if it is not particularly groundbreaking as its Michigan forebears. The impressive practical effects are augmented by some not so slick but workable CGI (with the various elements for compositing shot in 35mm while the rest of the film was lensed in 16mm). The film's video trailer advertises the film as being from the producer of THEY LIVE and THE BLOB while Synapse's back cover cites PRINCE OF DARKNESS in place of the latter, presumably referring to executive producer Andre Blay who produced John Carpenter's VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED the same year.

Released on VHS by distributor Hemdale in 1995 (who promptly went bankrupt), MOSQUITO was released on barebones DVD five years later by Image Entertainment. Scanned in 3K and mastered in 2K from the director's own 35mm internegative (the film was shot in 16mm with elements for optical shots photographed in 35mm and inserted into the blow-up), Synapse's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen presentation looks true to its uneven source with the amount of grain differing almost from shot to shot (suggesting that some angles may have been grabbed later in the day without additional lighting to compensate), focus errors more apparent than on the gauzy video masters, but great detail in close-up from faces to the animatronic and mechanical effects of the bugs. Since the 35mm magnetic audio tracks were lost, the audio was remastered from the DA-88 multitrack recording and presented in both the original stereo mix and a new 7.1 remix in DTS-HD Master Audio (with the remix in Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD version). Some defects in the original recording and mixing are still evident (including some fluctuations in volume in the dialogue recording) but the stereo mix was adventurous when it came to the bug scenes and the 7.1 remix is more so although it would be foolish to expect the same surround presence of a contemporary multichannel mix. Subtitle options for this region free disc include English SDH, French, German, and Spanish.

Synapse has loaded the disc with extras befitting not only one of their own releases but a film for which the still-surviving cast and crew hold so much affection. Jones appears on a commentary track with cinematographer/co-writer Tom Chaney and producer David Thiry. It's a leisurely track of anecdotes that viewers will probably want to audit before the more impressive feature-length documentary "Bugging Out! The Making of MOSQUITO" documentary (75:56) which I viewed first and found more lively if almost verbatim recollections from the same participants with the support of actors Lovelace, Loiselle, Hansen, Hard, and Margaret Gomoll (the nude camper who gets stung in the rear), among others. Chaney recalls meeting Jones on THE CARRIER and how he and Thiry were also putting together WENDIGO (which Troma would release as FROSTBITER) at the same time. Jones discusses his early 8mm and Super 8mm filmmaking excursions (including stop motion pieces), his early experiences in professional filmmaking (missing out on THE EVIL DEAD but getting work as a PA on Raimi's CRIMEWAVE), his early effects credits, and his concepts for the film. Lovelace and Loiselle discuss their chemistry on the set (with Loiselle revealing that Lovelace intentionally chewed tobacco before their kissing scene) and, along with the other actors, affectionately recall working with the late Asheton and Dixon (who had also played an authoritative character in THE CARRIER and would work with Lovelace and Asheton again in LEGION OF THE NIGHT and HATRED OF A MINUTE along with Hansen). Becker recalls having the nude scene sprung on him by Jones on the set after promising him he would not have to be naked, while Gomoll recalls how she eventually did her scene fully nude after the filmmakers blew so many takes trying not to get the cover she was wearing in the frame. Jones recalls the disappointment that the film did not get a theatrical release although he and Thiry were aware of Hemdale's money problems at the time. The featurette also includes some local news coverage of the film's production and local screening.

The deleted and extended scenes (7:20) segment – with optional commentary from Jones – includes minor additions including a longer introductory scene for Becker's camper and his girlfriend before they are murdered as well as more comic relief improvisation from Asheton. More interesting is the extended ending with the survivors walking into the sunset as the camera cranes up behind them which Jones felt was unneeded with the film already over ninety minutes. The behind the scenes footage (40:22), also with optional commentary and excerpted in the "Bugging Out!" featurette consists of visits to the ironworks warehouse that became the effects workspace, production office, and studio. We see table readings with the cast, who also read some scenes in front of the camera for Jones to block out the camera moves. We also see the construction of the various mosquito models (some more complex than others depending on the shot), tests of the zipline rig for the aerial shot of the camp and some of the mosquito flying sequences. A still gallery (4:30) and theatrical trailer (3:03) – upscaled from video with one or two instances of tape damage – round out the extras and the cover is reversible. (Eric Cotenas)