What They Say:
Get ready for a winged detour into toxic terror as a group of Japanese students on a field trip encounter a mutant strain of killer bees! Swarming and possessed of a mutant intelligence and deadly stings that cause the human body to explode from within, the bees seem to be hunting the surviving girls, picking them off one by one! But as horrifying as each venom-pulsing stab of death may be, the worst is yet to come!
Like most Switchblade Pictures releases from this period, there is only the original Japanese stereo language track here which is encoded at 224kbps. It’s a serviceable enough track considering the show is really little more than the dialogue in it and a few basic fight scenes, so it doesn’t really require more. The budget feel of the show is certainly evident enough in general but most of these kinds of films are like this to begin with. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout however and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2005, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The feature’s materials do look pretty good overall though with a fair amount of noise in it because of all the outdoor scenes. Well, almost the entire thing takes place outdoors so there is a fair amount of it overall, but never hugely distracting considering what kind of film this is. Colors are pretty solid and the black levels are good looking as well. Though it won’t leap off the screen at you, it definitely has more of a video look than a film look. It’s not a bad looking transfer in the slightest, but it’s one that won’t really draw you in all that much either.
The cover design for this release follows standard Switchblade Pictures design with a simple black and red border surrounding the poster piece inside. Inside of that we get probably the creepiest cover yet from Switchblade as it has a single eye looking out from within a swarm of bees that are closing in on it, including one that’s putting its stinger in the eye. The logo along the bottom is nicely done with blood stains behind it and the whole thing is positively creepy. The back cover is well done also as it has a stark horror feel to it with the way it’s been colored and tweaked. The summary pretty basic but gets the job done and there’s a really good set and layout of pictures along the bottom that showcase the feature without much obscured. The bottom is given over to some basic production information and a good technical grid that covers everything. No show related inserts are provided nor is there a reversible cover.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Prior to this release, Switchblade Pictures had only one other non-sexual related release out there with the manga inspired Gluttonous movie collection. The company worked a few different angles for the softcore material it had, but it hadn’t done a straight out and out non-sex related feature beyond that. And certainly nothing of the horror variety. Killer Bees is exactly what the title implies and it’s the kind of feature that makes the made for TV material on the Sci-Fi Channel look like high art.
Killer Bees is very simple in its setup. We’re introduced to seven young women who are going out on a camping trip to a remote mountain area where nobody else goes for reasons undisclosed. They’re being chaperoned by one of the girls’ father who is an avid camper himself. The opening of the feature has a couple minutes of nice basic bonding material as we get to know the girls, but with seven of them their names do tend to blur a bit, especially as you figure not many are going to survive this particular trip. Of them, they’re all pretty good natured and friendly, the kind of young women that you wouldn’t be surprised to see on a trip like this where they’re wanting to go, even with a dad as a chaperone of sorts.
The trip is largely uneventful, though it’s amusing to see the highway literally end in a hill where they end up parking the minivan. From there they begin a long two hour hike into the mountains to where they intend to go. The destination is quite nice as it’s an open meadow with the mountains in view all around them. You do wonder if some of the things in the distance are local towns and such which does sort of spoil the whole moment since they’re supposed to be so far removed from civilization. Everyone settles into their required jobs easy enough, looking for firewood, getting water, setting up camp and all that it has the feel of a decently close group that knows what to do and is looking forward to enjoying doing those things with their friends.
Unfortunately, one of them goes and does something stupid. While getting firewood, Akiko steps to the side to search for some herbs and plants to use so she can make some specialty tea. She comes across a very appealing flower in a field and is fascinated by it, though she doesn’t seem to know what it is. When she snaps off a small branch of it to take back, it starts the cycle of events. That particular plant, or all of them in the field, are basically held in high regard by the killer bees that live there. It doesn’t take long before they start to seek their revenge for the branch being broken off and they’ve given Akiko quite the sting. It’s a moment of anguish for everyone when they find out and the father decides to take her back to the minivan with her sister so they can find a hospital.
You can see easily how it will go from there. Seven Japanese girls, a swarm of killer bees, stuck on a mountain as night falls. One by one the girls begin to fall prey to the bees as they do silly things and generally try to not freak out while doing exactly that. While several of them survive the night, things go from bad to worse in the morning when a local wanders through and sees them there. He’s shocked by what’s happened, laments that it happens just as people seem to be coming back to the area, and then falls right into a swarm of more bees that have come looking for their branch and seeking revenge. It’s then a mad race to head down the mountain in the direction they think they need to go while the bees are in pursuit.
It’s just bad.
I mean, it’s just bad to have to even write this. Killer Bees plays to the basic horror story concept pretty easily but it has that very campy budget feel to it that makes it even worse. Yet in a way, maybe it’s better than a big Hollywood production with lavish special effects where you can’t believe they spent money on it. This is like a low budget version of The Happening in some way as nature is revolting against the people who have caused it harm. People that broke off one single branch. To add insult to injury, the CG bees are hilarious to watch in their awfulness and some of the “bees eye view” effects are even more laughable. You can visualize one of the props guys sitting there with a piece of cardboard and carving out a hole on it so he can put it on top of the camera to make it look just right. And you can imagine what must have been going through his mind.
While I was glad that Switchblade Pictures was branching out at least a little from all the softcore stuff, I have to admit that that kind of material might have made this a better watch. Seven young Japanese cuties in the woods together? And you’re killing them off with CG bees but without any kind of hook-ups? Not surprising, but still, it would have made it a little more fun. Killer Bees doesn’t have much to offer beyond very low grade budget horror material that’s been done a lot of times before and you wonder how it gets made even in 2005. With camcorder in hand and a gaggle of cheaply paid women, it’s not hard to imagine that this was someone’s pet project or a dare.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: D
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: N/A
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Switchblade Pictures
Release Date: January 27th, 2009
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.