There are two things that always seem to be in the news these days: the state of the world’s financial markets and mosquitos. There’s always something going on with stocks, trades, and inflation (I am not in finance, I am a journalist who casually watches Billions and Industry and remembers the bits of “jargon”), just like there’s always something going on with whatever horrible disease mosquitoes are carrying in a given year. Finally, these two phenomena are combined in Mosquito State, Filip Jan Rymsza’s Wall Street horror film now on Shudder, about a data analyst whose mental breakdown on the cusp of the 2008 financial crisis is attended by a growing swarm of insects that have made his apartment their home.
The year is 2007, which is an ominous enough setting for a horror movie set in the world of stocks and trades. Awkward and antisocial Richard Boca (Beau Knapp) is a quant trader who deals in predictions and analytics, living in an austerely furnished penthouse overlooking Central Park. The “golden goose” of his firm, his model has predicted the rise and fall of the market faithfully for years, until one day it glitches, failing to predict a sharp, random drop that could spell ruin for the financial world. His failing algorithm causes Richard to spiral, locking himself inside his apartment—but he’s not alone. A mosquito has laid her eggs inside his bedside water glass—mosquito rule No. 1: never leave out standing water—and her offspring congregate in Richard’s room, buzzing and whining their way through his apartment, sucking his blood and breeding into a swarm.
The movie is organized into chapters that mirror the mosquito’s life cycle, beginning with “Blood Meal,” “The Egg,” “The Larva,” and finally “The Imago.” You will become much too familiar with the maturation of mosquitoes, as Rymsza uses macro lenses to film larger-than-life (thank god) aquatic larvae hatching out of egg cases and adults using their sharp proboscis to do what they do best. Richard fills his apartment with humidifiers to make the air more mosquito-friendly, and itchy-looking boils start appearing on his body and face. Seriously, if you get the full-body cringe just from hearing that telltale whine of tiny wings, godspeed.
The slow, hypnotic vibe of the movie lends a dreamlike quality to the proceedings, even though by the end it feels like more of a nightmare. The connections to the Great Recession, always looming, are unmistakable—nearly every scene is underscored by half-volume archival clips of news broadcasts of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the democratic primary, Rupert Murdoch buying the Dow Jones, and even an ominous clip of The Apprentice. The interrelation between data analysis and mosquitoes is more opaque, though it’s not hard to draw thematic parallels, the fat cats at the top sucking the life force out of the rest of us Everyday Joes, and so on. The true horror of Mosquito State is much more straightforward. Sometimes the vibe is: Cope with your mental breakdown by allowing blood-sucking insects to make babies in your water glass.