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October 18, 2017

Movie Review: Dead Ant (2017)

Directed by Ron Carlson

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

What happened when the Pink Panther stepped on an anthill? Dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant ... The characters in Dead Ant miss this obvious and very old joke but they do manage to cough up every other joke every which way.

“Sonic Grave,” a long-in-the-tooth Hollywood hair band with one hit to their name head out to Joshua Tree before hitting the comeback trail before playing the “Nochella Festival,” (group manager Danny, played by Tom Arnold explains that he couldn’t swing the band into Coachella). Seeking musical inspiration of the chemical persuasion, they score some mescaline from Native American fruit stand operator Bigfoot (Michael Horse) who warns them is that they disrespect the land that they will be dealt with most severely. Our group gobbles the drugs underneath the desert skies, and the band’s roadie takes a wicked whizz on a fire ant. Bad move! The ants confront our heroes the following morning, progressively growing in size after each setback. Will Sonic Grave make it to the Nochella Festival with an army of pissed-upon and very pissed off giant fire ants on their tail? Well, what do you think?

Writer-director Ron Carlson mixes in some Fifties sci-fi, specifically Them! (1954), tosses in a lot of This is Spinal Tap (1984), lots of bad jokes told exceptionally well and a parade of blink-and-you’ll miss them one-liners. All of the performances are over-the-top, the special effects aren’t really all that special befitting a film of this sort and the hysteria is nonstop. There have been countless spoofs of creaky sci-fi horror films before, a genre unto itself, but it’s to director Carlson’s credit that he maintains a consistent tone. The narrative spends a great deal of time in a claustrophobic setting as the characters try to stave off the ant onslaught in a locked trailer, and there a lot of grim surprises along the way. One character’s grim fate pays direct tribute to Night of the Living Dead (1968), but the audience isn’t allowed to take it seriously for one moment, largely thanks to Arnold’s quick quips. “I paid you the ultimate compliment that you can make to a woman, that you had balls!” he bellows at one point. This is just one of many several spouted in many scenes.

(It’s probably not giving too much away that one of the plot’s major points is lifted entirely from Tim Burton’s largely misunderstood Mars Attacks! (1996), but great art is never inspired – it is directly stolen.) Reminiscent of the early work of director Peter Jackson, Dead Ant brought back pleasant memories of the New Zealand gore comedy Black Sheep (2006),m wherein genetically modified sheep begin disemboweling the denizens of a sleepy farm town. Dead Ant will be lighting up lots of film festivals this autumn, and you would be remiss to miss it. Tongue firmly in cheek, its high-energy fun all the way through.

Dead Ant is screening at the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival in San Francisco, Saturday, October 28 at 7 p.m. and if you are nearby you should most definitely check it out. Read all about it by going here.

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