Director/Screenplay/Miniature Effects – Kenneth Cran, Producers – James Cran & Kenneth Cran, Photography – Oktay Ortabasi, Music – Andrew Spence, Visual Effects – Dustin Yoder, Creature Effects/Production Design – Kenneth Cran & Dustin Yoder, Makeup Effects – Robert Lindsay. Production Company – The Squire Film Shoppe/No CGI Films
John Charles Meyer (Billa Crawford), Jessica Simons (Joany Haskin), Christine Haberman (Clarissa Haskin), Jon Briddell (Byron Haskin), Ken McFarlane (Dr Roger Patterson), Bill Brinsfield (Uncle Hibby Crawford), Ginger Pullman (Pearlene Crawford), Adam Brooks (Fij Crawford), Sandi Steinberg (Granny Willow), Ben Seton (Rip Crawford)
It is December 31st, 1999, the eve of the Millennium. Fearful of pending social collapse caused by the Y2K Bug, Byron Haskin, along with his new wife Joany and his teenage daughter Clarissa, head to go camping at an old ghost town in the Sierra Diablo mountains. Just as they pitch camp and settle in for the night, they are attacked and abducted by members of the Crawford hillbilly family. The family is giving birth to deformed mutations and it is decided they have become too in-bred and need new blood. Clarissa is chosen as bride for son Billa. As she and the others try to make an escape, they discover they are dealing with a much worse threat – a Norse monster that only emerges every thousand years, which has now hatched on the mountainside and is devouring everything in its path.
The so-called Millennium Bug or Y2K threat was a spectre of a social apocalypse, a doomsday scenario that never happened. As the turn of the millennium approached, there were a great many prognosticators of social doom theorising that the inability of older pre-millennial computers to switch over to a four digit year code when they had been designed to list year dates as only two digits – ie 98 instead of 1998 and so on, meaning that 2000 would cause them to reset to 00 – would cause widespread havoc. There ended up being maybe a dozen recoded cases of systems errors resulting, certainly nothing in terms of the mass fatalities and financial losses that people were predicting, and everywhere people woke up to January 1st, 2000 with a world no different to what is was before they went to bed. Ten years later, most of the world has even forgotten that there ever was a Y2K problem, so exactly why this film ended up being made exploiting that topical date is a complete mystery.
The title The Millennium Bug is a double play in that the film is both set around the turn of the millennium with the fears of the Y2K problem playing out in the background and is also a reference to the bug-like monster of the show that only rises once every thousand years. You go in expecting to be watching a film about the impending social collapses or at least characters imagining it but this is soon forgotten about. Instead, director/wrier Kenneth Cran opts for a standard reworking of the Backwoods Brutality film a la The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) with the innocent family who stray off the beaten path being made prisoners and tortured/killed by a family of backwoods hillbillies.
Soon into the film, I began to switch off at The Millennium Bug. The scenes with the hillbillies strike a note of cartoonish caricature. Kenneth Cran seems to be aiming for a catalogue of brutalising horrors as is standard for this particular genre. However, any horror here is subverted by the actors and the costuming, which seems determined to play the parts as ridiculously exaggerated cartoon figures, less sub-human hillbillies than someone’s cliche idea derived from The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71). What we end up with seems, despite the attempt to play it seriously, more like the deliberate absurdity of Mother’s Day (1980).
About halfway through, Kenneth Cran tries to get clever on us. He does a plotting bait-and-switch in much the same way as Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino did with From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) where they first drew us into a getaway thriller and then halfway through turned it on its head with the introduction of vampires. Similarly, Cran drags us into what starts out seeming like a Backwoods Brutality film and then part way through does a switch that turns everything into a monster movie. Perhaps a more honest version of the title would have been to pitch it as one of the contemporary ‘versus’ films – Hillbillies vs Giant Monster or some such. The giant monster effects are competently conducted and there are some reasonable shots of it stomping through the woods – alas, when it is seen, it looks ridiculous, like something out of a 1970s Japanese Godzilla film. The film’s most absurd point though is when one of the victims falls into a pit and encounters skeletons that fall out and scream at them.
One of the peculiarities of the film is giving the father of the group the name Byron Haskin, the director of a number of genre classics including the Disney Treasure Island (1950), the original The War of the Worlds (1953), The Naked Jungle (1954) and Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964).