GIANT KILLER ANTS (AKA DEAD ANT) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: RON CARLSON / STARRING: TOM ARNOLD, SEAN ASTIN, MARTIN BLASICK / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The appeal of monstrous creature movies is that, quite often, the title tells the potential viewer all they need to know about the film and whether it's likely to be something they wish to see. The '50s saw a slew of these creature features, with titles such as Tarantula!, Attack of the Giant Leeches, Attack of the Crab Monsters, and so forth. There's absolutely no mistaking the central conflict in the plot, and such is the appeal.
The same can be said for the latest iteration in a long line of “enlarged versions of otherwise harmless creatures” cinematic catastrophes, director Ron Carlson's Giant Killer Ants. The film (known as Dead Ant in America, where it first saw release) also does the viewer a solid by including a number of actors known best for their work in B-movies, really driving home the fact that any self-respecting genre fan should know exactly what they're in for.
Giant Killer Ants features Tom Arnold as a sleazy-yet-heartfelt manager of a one hit wonder metal band called Sonic Grave, Jake Busey as its singer, Sean Astin as another member of the band, and the movie's about giant killer ants. It is not - nor is there any way it could ever be - good, but it's not terrible.
There are a lot of problematic things going on and, given that director Carlson also wrote the screenplay, it's safe to say that they can all be laid at his feet. The film involves a magical mystical Native named Bigfoot (Michael Horse) who sells hallucinogenics with the help of his sidekick, Firecracker (Danny Woodburn). The film opens with the pair selling some to a young woman, who promptly ignores their warnings and is chased by a giant killer ant, while shucking off all of her clothes in order to throw them at the attacking ant. Obviously, she ends up being killed while totally nude.
Such is the film, in that it mixes idiocy with nudity and violence, courtesy of some half-hearted special effects. There's far too much interpersonal communication for a film of this sort, but the dialogue's at least attempting to be humorous, even if a lot of the jokes don't fully land. After that smash-bang opening, it's a long wait until the giant killer ants return, and it's only in the last 20 minutes or so that the movie properly kicks into gear. Once it hits that point, though, everything's off to the races, with gloriously absurd violence and an ending which relies on the sheer power of rock n' roll. Not since the music video for Damn Yankees' “High Enough” has a guitar chord had such devastating effect.
It still manages to be charming, and it seems as though this is a film best seen with a crowd and as many intoxicants as are consumed on-screen. The actors, while B-movie grade, are still professional, and commit fully to the premise at hand. There's no attempt to try to make Giant Killer Ants more than it is, but there's also no winking and nodding at the audience, either. The real appeal of an enjoyable schlockfest such as this is when the entirety of the cast and crew do their level best to make a solid film, despite budgetary limitations, rather than making excuses or shrugging things off. At that, Giant Killer Ants succeeds.