It’s not as if the world needed another schlocky H.G. Wells adaptation from producer-director Bert I. Gordon, following his execrable 1976 giant-animal movie The Food of the Gods. Yet apparently that one did well enough for American-International Pictures to release a follow-up—and while Empire of the Ants is an awful movie virtually devoid of redeeming values, it’s moderately better than its predecessor. Both films are adapted from Wells in the loosest sense, borrowing merely the fantasy-fiction legend’s titles and central gimmicks. Therefore, as in The Food of the Gods, the plot of Empire of the Ants is mostly Gordon’s own—not a good thing. The setting is the Florida Everglades, where Marilyn (John Collins) is a real-estate con artist. Escorting a boatload of losers to whom she hopes to sell worthless swampland, Marilyn leads her group deep into the wilderness, unaware that illegally dumped radioactive waste has transformed local ants into monsters the size of grizzly bears. How can the ants function at this overgrown stature, given their rail-thin limbs? Why do the ants suddenly develop a taste for human flesh? And why are the ants the only animals transformed by the radioactive waste? If you expect answers to these questions, you’ve never seen a Bert I. Gordon movie. Instead of logic—or, for that matter, excitement—viewers get tacky scenes in which bland footage of real ants is awkwardly superimposed onto location shots in order to create the unpersuasive illusion of large creatures running amok. Gordon also humiliates his actors by forcing them to wrestle with large mock-ups of ant torsos during close-ups of bloody attacks. None of the performers delivers laudatory work, though eye-candy starlet Pamela Susan Shoop fills out her skintight costume well. Luckily for all concerned, Gordon stopped pillaging Wells’ oeuvre after this flop crawled in and out of theaters.
Empire of the Ants: LAME