Delivering exactly what the title promises, the made-for-TV thriller Ants is basically acceptable given the expectations one might reasonably have for such a project. Yes, the special effects are minimal and the storyline is pedestrian, but Ants features decent production values, a cast comprising several familiar faces, and plenty of scenes in which people are killed by insects with poisonous bites. In fact, had the producers seen fit to boost the gore and nudity quotients (which is to say, had either of those things been included at all), Ants probably could have earned as a theatrical release. The movie is dim-witted, like most creature features, but it’s not much worse than many similar films made in the same era with bigger budgets. The story is shaped roughly like that of a disaster movie. The lives of several underdeveloped characters converge at a lakeside resort, and construction around the resort upsets a colony of mutant ants bearing poisonous venom. Then, after the customary first 40 minutes in which Our Hero tries to persuade people that ants are the culprits behind several nasty incidents, a number of characters get trapped in a hotel with marauding insects while emergency personnel try to rescue them. Nothing original or surprising slips into Ants, except perhaps for the silly climax during which (spoiler alert!) Our Hero coaches fellow survivors to meditate and breathe through tubes while killer ants crawl on their skin. The mind reels. Although stolid he-man Robert Foxworth and perky blonde Lynda Day George are the film’s real stars, the most noteworthy cast member is Suzanne Somers, appearing at the height of her Three’s Company-era pulchritude and wearing skimpy outfits during most of her scenes. Chaste as they are, the various shots of Somers being mauled by ants while dressed in nothing but a bed sheet have a certain naughty appeal. It’s also interesting (and/or depressing) to see such virile players as Bernie Casey, Brian Dennehy, and Hollywood legend Myrna Loy trying to class up their scenes. Like the movie’s titular creatures, the pleasures that Ants offers to viewers are so small they nearly escape notice. Nonetheless, there’s goofy fun to be had here.
A lakeside resort ... yes, in fact this goes with alternative titles such as It Happened at Lakewood Manor. What was it about 1977? As you documented here back in August 2012, that was also the year of Empire of the Ants. Perversely, my love of names recalls this movie. I think some "Department of Health" guy IDs himself as "Tom Franklin," and I remember thinking, Wow, Tom Franklin, what a ... what a nothing name. I think Tom says, Eh, some bites, they'll hurt you -- but a whole lot at once? Certain death. I think he also gives the "meditate while looking like you're smoking egg-roll-thick reefers" advice. Luckily, the Seventies had TV movies EVEN SILLIER than this one.
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