A London pop star suffering exhaustion is sent to convalesce in the country-side where she encounters a toxic mix of deranged ambition and a hybridized strain of killer bees that threatens not only her fragile sanity, but also her life. Leigh is a relative lightweight amongst her accomplished co-stars, with Doleman as the no-nonsense farmer and Finlay as his eccentric neighbour jostling for position as the dominant bee keeper. It's a rather unusual premise on which to base a complex whodunit, but provides a surprisingly strong basis for the mystery to unfold. Doleman's strained relationship with his apparently invalided wife, and the curiosities of relationships in an isolated rural community serve as an intervening backdrop to the troubled Leigh and her increasing concern at the strange events she witnesses.
Veteran Hammer-horror director Francis has crafted an eerie little mystery, lacking none of the essential ingredients of a conventional mystery, with the notable exception of an impartial investigator. Most of the detective work is done by the protagonists, drip feeding the naive Leigh with twisted facts to conjure alibis and implicate the culprit. Francis does a fine job of concealing the mystery, carefully playing the doubt card, and tempering clues with red herrings and faux staging.
Opening to the groovy fusion of art-house pop culture, Leigh's character is framed as a victim of excesses in a progressive London scene (there's an implied drug addiction, but it's vague) and from there, the film juxtaposes to the opposite extreme - an ultra conservative, socially incestuous rural setting, a deep isolation both geographically and socially for the central character. It's an engaging tussle between old-fashioned values and an emerging modern liberalism.
Slated by critics, the film almost cheats itself with its bold title, because it's not ostensibly a movie of this genre. The bees are present as a vehicle only, and certainly they have comparably little to offer by way of shock value. But the intrigue that the many layers build, is compelling. Try it from a different angle and you may like what you find.