Now on Shudder, Filip Jan Rymsza’s Mosquito State is an interesting piece that uses body horror to tell a story of madness in the face of impending change. It’s a film as frustrating as it is fascinating, because for every solid moment, it has another that comes up a little short. But the moments that work, really work, and the feeling of doom that the story carries with it is undeniably effective.
The film opens as a lone mosquito finds its way into the posh party of a New York financial firm and lands on the neck of the office genius/weirdo, Richard Boca (Beau Knapp). Richard’s specialty is data trends and modeling. He has designed a program to help understand current market changes and predict how they will resolve. He’s the secret weapon that keeps the firm happy and making money. He is also very rigid, seeing and interacting with the world from a very specific perspective. He has figured out a way to make logical sense out of the illogical, and living in that space brings him comfort and contentment.
The mosquito observes silently as Richard meets and holds an awkward conversation with Lena (Charlotte Vega), a manager of a local wine bar who also looks at life from a bigger picture perspective, but in a different way than Richard might. The pair leave and head back to Richard’s amazing penthouse. It’s modern and immaculate, but sparsely decorated. And the decorations on display are more in place as a matter of necessity, rather than personal taste. The pair spend the evening together, and upon Lena’s departure, the mosquito finally makes her move. She lands quietly in a water glass that Lena has used, and lays her eggs.
Over the coming days, Richard’s apartment and body play host to the swarms of mosquitoes that emerge from these eggs. As the film goes on, he becomes covered by mounds of inflamed skin coming from the numerous bites that he has received. As a piece of body horror, the film is incredibly effective. The mosquitos cover every surface in the apartment when they are at rest and they create a cloud around Richard when they are in the air The high pitched drone of the swarm is a constant presence, filling the silence and hovering just under some of the dialogue. It’s almost enough to drive a person mad.
In the midst of this, the market begins taking some dangerous turns that his algorithm was unable to anticipate and that Richard is unable to understand. The film’s 2007 setting hints that we are tiptoeing ever closer to the big crash of 2008. We see plenty of real-world reminders of where and when we are. News reports, footage of the early stages of the 2008 Presidential elections and other background moments serve as a tense reminder of where we were at that particular moment and where we were headed. It seems that Richard’s program is announcing the devastation and the downturn in a preternatural way that the characters are incapable of understanding.
The story specifically chooses this moment in modern capitalism and sets Richard’s undoing against it. Because if he wasn’t already going crazy from the zillions of mosquitos, the upending of his world and the way that he understands it when his algorithm fails will almost certainly do the trick.
The film’s success and strength lie largely in the beautiful imagery that Rymsza and cinematographer Eric Koretz put onscreen. The colors and the shot compositions are gorgeous, and when overlayed with a wicked synth score from Cezary Skubiszewski, creates a beautiful and hypnotic space in which to set this story. But the themes of capitalism, ecosystems and survival, though interesting, come up a little short. Ideas are presented and chased, but they don’t fully tie together in a satisfying way. Ultimately, Mosquito State is a film that feels more like an interesting and well made thought experiment than it does a fully fledged story.
Movie Score: 3/5