‘Bug Out’ Review: IMDb TV’s Creepy-Crawly Docuseries Explores a Very Unusual Heist
In 2018, police in Philadelphia got a call about an unusual crime. Roughly $50,000 worth of bugs had been stolen from the Philadelphia Insectarium, a museum dedicated to teaching people about these much-maligned (but ecologically important) invertebrates. The case is the subject of IMDbTV’s entertaining and twisty new docuseries Bug Out. It premieres March 4 on Amazon’s free streaming service.
‘Bug Out’ will keep audiences guessing
Over the course of four briskly-paced episodes (each clocks in at about 35 minutes), Bug Out tries to unravel the truth behind a surprisingly complicated mystery that generated headlines all around the country (as well as some jokes from Jimmy Kimmel).
The star of the show is John Cambridge, the enthusiastic young CEO of the Insectarium. Initially brought in to breathe some life into the moribund museum, he ended up taking over the whole show. That earns him the ire of founder Steve Kanya, who created the Insectarium in the early ‘90s to promote his exterminating business. For his part, Cambridge memorably dismisses his former boss as “a tremendous ding-a-ling of a human” and suggests getting rid of him was the only way the museum could survive.
As the conflict between Kanya and Cambridge suggests, all is not as it seems at this family-friendly attraction. Cambridge and the others running the museum seem, at best, in over their heads. And as police begin to investigate the theft, they uncover no shortage of possible culprits, many on the inside. Suspects include Kanya, disgruntled staff members, and a former employee already on the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s radar for illegally importing insects. At one point, there’s a detour to Mexico and a hint that cartels involved in the tarantula trade could be behind the theft. As the story unfolds, viewers might think they have a handle on who committed the crime. But a twist in the last episode turns everything on its head.
The docuseries shines a light on an unusual subculture
First-time director Ben Feldman proves himself more than capable behind the camera as he introduces viewers to the strange subculture of bug enthusiasts. The heist is the hook, but the look at the seedy underbelly of the insect trade is fascinating.
Bugs are big business. Rare specimens can go for hundreds of dollars on the black market, as an Australian smuggler explains in a candid interview. While the average person might treat insects as an annoyance, they’re extremely attractive to obsessive collectors, who will do whatever it takes to get their hands on unusual species. “That is where the black market gets rather nefarious,” one interviewee explains.
But law enforcement takes these insect-related crimes seriously. “If you commit a wildlife crime, we will come after you. And we will put you in jail,” one Fish & Wildlife agent declares. He later recounts how he nabbed a major Japanese smuggler by posing as a potential fence – and possible romantic prospect. The man is apprehended when he travels to the U.S. to collect his money, and perhaps have a liaison with the agent.
Viewers will get caught in the show’s web
Refreshingly, Bug Out avoids the tendency of many recent docuseries to stretch their stories out over eight or 10 episodes. Instead, it’s basically a long-ish feature cut into four parts and is easily digested in an evening’s binge-watch session. Fans of documentaries featuring unusual (and bloodless) crimes and quirky characters, such as Fyre Fraud, will easily find themselves caught in its web.
Bug Out is streaming on IMDbTV beginning March 4.
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