A Horror Movie About Spiders Made Me Feel Like It Was 2020 Again


  • Infested is more than just a creature feature – it’s a character-driven ensemble piece about disaster and community.
  • The film explores pandemic-era themes like isolation and quarantine, along with police violence and racial discrimination.
  • While the spiders in Infested are terrifying, the true source of tension comes from the well-developed characters and realistic horrors.

To call Infested (Vermines) a creature feature is both literally true and somewhat misleading. The French horror film by writer-director Sébastien Vaniček is, at the literal level, about an apartment building that becomes the hunting ground of absurdly dangerous spiders. But that’s only part of what’s going on in this movie, and perhaps its weakest element. The spiders aren’t exactly shortchanged; arachnophobes will undoubtedly find this tough to sit through. They just aren’t the true source of tension.

Infested (2024)

Fascinated by exotic animals, Kaleb finds a venomous spider in a bazaar and brings it back to his flat. It only takes a moment for it to escape and reproduce, turning the whole place into a dreadful web trap.


  • Creates a compelling ensemble of well-developed characters
  • Explores pandemic-era themes that really hit home
  • The script grounds everything in reality

  • The monsters end up overshadowed by more realistic horrors

Instead, Vaniček presents us with something better. Infested is a character-driven ensemble piece about a marginalized community visited by disaster, and how that disaster both tears them apart and brings them closer together. Faced with arachnid swarms, these people don’t merely fear dying, but dying alone, without saying goodbye, or before making long-overdue amends. The film is savvily aware that the unreality of an overrun building pales in comparison to being trapped there by a too-plausible, police-enforced quarantine. Those expecting to sit down and switch off will find this monster movie more affecting than they bargained for.

Infested Actually Takes The Time To Develop Its Characters

So we really care when things take a turn

After a killer prologue showing how smugglers catch these spiders in a Middle Eastern desert to sell on the black market, we meet Kaleb (Théo Christine), the poor soul who purchases one from the back room of a local shop. We follow him for some time before any carnage begins and come to understand his life, and the lives of those around him. His neighbors come from a wide range of racial and immigrant backgrounds. The building they live in is run-down, and opportunities for its inhabitants are limited.

If Infested suffers from anything, it’s that Vaniček makes its characters and themes too real, and the monsters can’t keep up. I’m still torn on whether that’s a bug or a feature.

The narrow line Kaleb is trying to walk is quite skillfully drawn in Infested‘s early scenes. He loves this place and these people; a love instilled in him by his mother, who has passed recently enough that the wound is hardly scabbed over. His sister, Manon (Lisa Nyarko), is fixing up their apartment herself to get it ready to sell, which he sees as a deep betrayal. He, instead, has started selling quality sneakers out of his storage locker, hoping for a path to financial stability that isn’t on the harder side of crime.

A spider trapped in a cup in Infested

He tries to nudge the other young men around him away from that, too, but the pressure is clearly there. And there’s a gnawing sense that his good intentions might not matter — one neighbor, the building’s voice for white male hostility, treats him like he’s dealing drugs anyway. They certainly matter to us, though. The film’s approach to dialogue gives every character we meet, however briefly, a touch of realism that grounds us in this world, but it’s Kaleb’s perspective that sells it. Seeing this community through his eyes gets us invested in it pretty quickly.

Which makes it all the more tragic that Kaleb’s purchase proves its downfall. The spider is meant to be part of the collection of creatures (ranging from insects to frogs to fish to a rare scorpion) he keeps in his room, the endurance of a childhood dream. It doesn’t stay in its box for long, and gets right to multiplying. Before Kaleb even notices it’s gone, the first unsuspecting victim dies a painful, disfiguring death.

Infested (2024)


Sébastien Vanicek

Release Date

April 26, 2024


My Box Films




Sébastien Vanicek
, Florent Bernard


Théo Christine
, Sofia Lesaffre
, Jérôme Niel
, Lisa Nyarko
, Finnegan Oldfield
, Marie-Philomene
, Nga


106 Minutes

Infested Makes A Compelling Horror Movie About 2020

And undercuts its monsters in the process

Infested, whether thematically or stylistically, recalls movies like Attack the Block, Cloverfield, and (occasionally) the 2022 French film Athena. But from the handling of this first death, which everyone at first assumes is due to some rare disease, I understood it first and foremost as a 2020 movie. The infestation isn’t purely a metaphor for the pandemic, but the imagery of isolation and quarantine makes the parallel pretty clear. And the film’s interest in the distrust this immediately sows between these tight-knit people puts that imagery to good use.

I say 2020 movie, not pandemic movie, because police violence gets equal attention. The racial makeup of this building’s inhabitants and the discrimination they face is already text when cops in riot gear are dispatched to deal with the potential deadly outbreak. Sequences follow that make very clear how the institutions supposedly protecting and serving these people end up hurting them, even if at first by tragically misunderstanding the threat. Another example of good intentions not amounting to much.

If Infested suffers from anything, it’s that Vaniček makes its characters and themes too real, and the monsters can’t keep up. I’m still torn on whether that’s a bug or a feature. That a fantastical horror film scenario should feel less scary than horrific things we’ve lived through is only natural, and would look pretty good as a movie’s “point,” if that’s what Infested is after. Regardless, I’m hardly going to complain about a monster movie where the monsters, not the humans, feel underdeveloped, when it plays so much better than the reverse.

Infested is available to stream on Shudder from Friday, April 26. The film is 106 minutes long and is not yet rated.

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