“Vermin”, by Sébastien Vanicek: arachnean assault on a dying city

“Vermin”, by Sébastien Vanicek: arachnean assault on a dying city


The opinion of “Le Monde” – to see

Reptiles, amphibians and arachnids… In his room, Kaleb, 30, houses all kinds of small exotic animals, in around ten vivariums heated with artificial light. One evening, returning from the Ali Express grocery store, where he thought he had gotten a good deal, he brought back a spider in a Tupperware container, so beautiful that he nicknamed it “Rihanna”.

Under the tropical sunlight of Noisy-le-Grand (Seine-Saint-Denis), he delicately transfers it into a shoebox, where he makes a cozy little nest for it for the night. But, the next day, the diva escaped, made a victim and began to procreate. While venomous specimens have invaded the building, Kaleb (Théo Christine, fantastic as an innocent culprit) and his gang will have to fight to survive.

We think of Tarantula (1955), by Jack Arnold, by Arachnophobia (1990), by Frank Marshall, by Starship Troopers (1997), by Paul Verhoeven, with the difference that Sébastien Vanicek, who makes his first feature film here, does not resort to hairy tarantulas or globose black widows. In Vermin , the spiders are so small that they slip through every hole and are reminiscent of the light creatures with elongated legs that climb the walls of our houses. This is the mark of a filmmaker, whose sureness of line does not give in to excessive special effects but plays on something more invisible, in the service of entertainment with a social and political emanation.

The fantasy of a world without parasites

With the modesty of a B series and the precision of a master craftsman, Sébastien Vanicek takes care of the entrances and exits of the field of his arthropods, immerses our heads in them, plays on an aggressive editing, abrupts his chromatic palette and combines all this with a score of out-of-tune violins to tell the story of the swarming, gesticulating, crawling, by nature elusive, movement of the vermin. Offering the pleasure of a suspenseful story and a jolt of fear, it takes the aesthetic course of decomposition, ground on which critters are always more fertile. It is clear that they produce bigger and bigger babies.

Under the spider’s attack, we are indeed witnessing the agony of a city where the inhabitants have been locked up, condemned to live without electricity, in the dark – which has the effect of annoying the spiders. From the biological body to the political body, the film tells the fear of seeing “vermin” contaminate the entire society, the fantasy of urban cleanliness, with this idea of a world without parasites which leads to dangerous policies.

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