Dead Ant

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Dead Ant
"If the concept appeals to you, you're likely to find it one of the most entertaining films of the year."

A one-hit wonder glam rock band on a desperate comeback tour. A peyote trip out in the middle of the desert. Teenage groupies, mysterious warnings, pressure to write a new hit overnight and, um, giant, killer ants. What could possibly go wrong?

Dead Ant is one of those films that's difficult to grade (most readers love star ratings; most critics hate them). It is not, in conventional terms, a good film: it's weakly structured, most of the characters are underdeveloped, the special effects barely even try to convince and it's heavily reliant on cliché. If the concept appeals to you, however, you're likely to find it one of the most entertaining films of the year. Our heroes are endearingly rubbish, there are some cracking one-liners and an undercurrent of sharp observational humour nicely complements the ridiculousness of the central plot.

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Opening with a scene of a woman being pursued through the desert by a giant ant which she tries to slow down by throwing pieces of her clothing in its general direction, the film wears its exploitation credentials on its sleeve. Having established this, it then takes swipes a the expectations that accompany it. Whilst the teenagers are there to look pretty, the idea that they would actually want to sleep with ageing rock stars is given short shrift, and humour around the sleaziness of the band's manager is played very darkly. Twin Peaks alumnus Michael Horse pops up as a Native who plays to the stereotypes for the tourists but is clearly smarter than all of them and has a romantic interest that viewers might not expect. The ants don't get the sympathy that the genre might once have afforded them but there's still the requisite message - which actually dates back to the Forties - that monsters are the natural result of disrespecting the natural environment.

A cautionary tale full of helpful illustrations of what not to do if you're tripping, besieged or fighting for your life, Dead Ant has enough gore and violence to make it into the horror category but its heart is in comedy. For all the flimsiness of the characters, it's easy to be drawn to them because of their hopelessness and the warmth they show toward one another. Silly though the set-up is, the sense of threat is real because they're pathetically outclassed by their formic foes. The ants just keep on getting bigger and all our heroes really know how to do is rock.

The sort of film you really want to see with an audience after everyone has had a few beers, Dead Ant makes up for what it lacks in finesse with spirit and energy. It also helps to know your monster movies so you can appreciate some nicely placed in-jokes. Stick around at the end for the closing song. Enjoy the ride and don't let the little things bug you.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2019
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Dead Ant packshot
When the 1989 'one-hit-wonder' glam metal band Sonic Grave embark on a trip to Coachella in the hope of making a comeback, their peyote trip pit stop in Joshua Tree incites an attack by giant ants.

Director: Ron Carlson

Writer: Hank Braxtan, Ron Carlson

Starring: Tom Arnold, Jake Busey, Rhys Coiro, Sean Astin, Martin Blasick, Natasha Blasick, Michael Horse

Year: 2017

Runtime: 87 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

Glasgow 2019

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