6 May 2022
Eric Portillo, Nikayla Fernandez, Natalie Puente
Anxiety, sex and a cockroach infestation… sounds like an average Uni flat. Stefan Fernandez’ Erotic Insect certainly isn’t search-engine friendly, but as a bite-sized dark comedy this bizarre, surreal short makes a big impression – doubly so for anyone afraid of creepy-crawlies…
A perverted exterminator (Eric Portillo) receives a call from a repeat client about a persistent roach infestation in a flat building. The Bugman – as he likes to refer to himself – drags himself away from his depraved magazines to clear the insects out. But when he arrives, sounds of inviting pleasure emanate from an open room in the hall. But the Bugman’s temptations may be misplaced, as his fantasies quickly take a shocking turn…
Erotic Insect is a Kafkaesque horror-comedy that taps into its audience’s primeval fear receptors with a short but disturbing build-up, and impressively grotesque practical effects that will have viewers not knowing whether to quiver behind the couch, or guffaw at the insane happenings befalling its unfortunate protagonist. Director Stefan Fernandez does a wonderful job of quickly establishing the film’s circumstances and provides enough context through the smallest details (such as a quick shot of the Bugman’s spiky blue hair to show his ‘outcast’ status) that the film’s minimal runtime does not detract from its primary purpose – that being to get straight to the tension and into the gross-out.
Sex is brilliantly presented in the movie as something gritty, grimy and disgusting as opposed to erotic or sexy. The use of porno magazines quickly establishes the protagonist’s attitude to sex and relationships, and the inversion of using red lighting as the exterminator slowly opens the door expecting an orgy is a clever play on the audience’s expectations and associations with eroticism.
Eric Portillo is a brilliant lead, effectively portraying the Bugman’s descent into the insect-filled insanity. His initial starved perversion establishes the exterminator as a slimy and somewhat unlikeable protagonist. But the helplessness that explodes out when he enters the room leads to a disturbing empathy – as though we are trapped in the same horrific circumstances as viewers. With such a short runtime, it’s a performance that tells us so much about the character – similar to the impressive direction.
The film’s highlight is the frighteningly realistic insect designs created by Jeremy Ciliberto, which will be crawling round in your brain for days afterwards. Real, physical designs and creations always trump the virtual when it comes to generating actual fear and disgust – which can only be truly achieved when presented with something to actually react to. Disturbing as they are, the bugs represent a magnificent payoff to the film, and the quality of the practical effects themselves are essential for this.