Mosquito State is a bloodsucking modern-day parable, lousy with metaphor and strangely enjoyable

Mosquito State (MA, 100 minutes)

4 stars

Albert Einstein once said that the greatest scientists are artists as well, and Polish director Filip Jan Rymsza makes genius art from science in this chilling mash-up of The Fly gene-spliced into American Psycho.

Rymsza sets his film in the weeks that foreshadowed the Global Financial Crisis, where a market analyst is down in the depths on the 90th floor of his spectacular apartment building.

Beau Knapp in Mosquito State. Picture: Shudder

Beau Knapp in Mosquito State. Picture: Shudder

Richard is apoplectic about infestations and fluctuations he senses, and reads portents of in the financial market.

He is taciturn and awkward anyway, a social pariah among the private school bullies earning outrageous salaries at his firm, a barely tolerated presence who nonetheless keeps his company ahead of the game with the prescient predictions of the algorithm he has developed.

Not a metaphor, but in Richard's reality, there is a real infestation going on in his apartment, a swarm of mosquitoes who bite and lay their eggs in Richard.

As the film progresses, he develops disfiguring mounds on his body.

Before this ugliness engulfs him, however, the lovely sommelier Lena (Charlotte Vega) befriends him at a work party and comes to his home, a friendly voice and sympathetic ear in Richard's increasingly ugly world.

Their script thwarts expectations at every turn, which will leave some viewers feeling frustrated, but this is pure arthouse, a thinking viewer's horror film.

Richard doesn't think it's ugly, though, reading patterns and beauty in the endless breeding cycles of his mosquito flatmates, fluctuating patterns he channels into his algorithm.

"Honeybee" is the name of his algorithm because Richard initially thought the market was structured, but his Culicidae cohort are convincing him of the loveliness of rhythmic disorder.

Both aesthetically, and in the sociopathic obsessions of its main character, the film owes a debt to American Psycho.

Cinematographer Eric Koretz swaps Patrick Bateman's pristine whites for blue-drenched neon, but the set design is made up of the kind of clean surfaces that Bateman would have loved covering in newspaper.

But Richard himself is an interesting, warmer figure with a way lower body count, a whispering genius Quasimodo-type fit to burst with market entropy.

Richard is played by American Beau Knapp, a sturdy and interesting performer whose star is on the ascent, filming two mini-series and a feature since Mosquito State was shot in early 2020, quite an achievement in the middle of a global pandemic.

Did I mention we're in the middle of a pandemic? The fascinating parallel in Rymsza's feature is, of course, the patterns analysts observed leading to the situation we find ourselves in, locked down and masked up.

His micro-lensing of larvae and glutinous evolving insect spore is both gorgeous and icky, feeling appropriately unclean.

Rymsza's screenplay, written with Mario Zermino, is lousy with metaphor, and the blood-sucking money vampires who crashed the worlds economy being compared to literal blood-suckers is just one.

Rymsza allows your own thoughts and interpretations, with little hand-holding.

Their script thwarts expectations at every turn, which will leave some viewers feeling frustrated, but this is pure arthouse, a thinking viewer's horror film.

Mosquito State is available for viewing on the new streaming platform Shudder, which curates an exclusively horror-centric selection of films.

It's worth checking out, particularly for their original content including a reboot of the classic Creepshow.

This story A bloodsucking modern parable first appeared on The Canberra Times.