80’s metal band Sonic Grave is trying to make its big comeback. In a desperate attempt to write a brand new hit song, the band buys some special peyote called “the Sun” and heads out to Joshua Tree in hopes of getting inspired. There is just one catch to the drug: the band can do no harm to a living thing while on the Sun, otherwise there will be dire consequences. Of course, they do not heed the warning.
Writer and director Ron Carlson (All American Christmas Carol) shows he knows how to bring the rock and the laughs in Dead Ant. The film manages to successfully make fun of and pay homage to 80’s glam rock at the same time. These guys are washed up, but they can’t seem to accept it. They are so desperate to make a big comeback they resort to taking drugs in the middle of nowhere, hoping the psychedelic visions will lead to their next hit song. The band definitely fulfills the stereotype of a once famous glam rock band that is trying to relive the glory days; the outfits, the hair, the makeup, the drugs and alcohol use, the hook-ups. The addition of a horror element, in the form of ever-growing giant killer ants, adds to the humor of the film. There is a combination of mysticism with the “do no harm” condition of doing the special drug and creature feature as the band members are hunted down by giant ants. They start out on the small side, but as the film progresses the ants get bigger and bigger. Turning a creature that is generally looked at as small and harmless and turning it into a massive killing machine is a nice comedic touch.
A lot of what makes this film so enjoyable is the performances. Each actor gives a memorable performance in their own way and they all are able to make the audience laugh. One of my favorite performances comes from Jake Busey (The Frighteners, Starship Troopers) as the lead singer, Merrick. Merrick looks a lot like a Bret Michaels impersonator, and he is all about the rock and roll lifestyle. Busey truly commits to the role and ends up delivering some of the most hilarious lines. The band’s guitarist, Pager, is played by Rhys Coiro (Entourage, Straw Dogs). Pager is the most desperate to regain fame, and that leads to some very funny hijinks as music remains the focus even as the ants are on the attack. One of my favorite performances comes from Leisha Hailey (Fertile Ground, The L Word) as the band’s drummer, Stevie. She comes across as the most grounded and the most intelligent of the group. Stevie doesn’t take shit from anyone and Hailey brings some sass to the character. Honorable mention goes to Michael Horse (Twin Peaks), Danny Woodbury (Mirror Mirror), Sean Astin (The Goonies), and Tom Arnold (True Lies).
There are definitely some low-budget style effects in Dead Ant, but they don’t detract from the film at all. If anything they might add a bit of charm to the indie B-movie plot. The ants are all created with CGI. The filmmakers had an understandably low budget to create these big bugs, but the CGI looks no better or worse than many of the films shown on the Syfy Channel. The practical effects are slightly less successful. Although they are used sparingly, there is one effect in the climax of the film that is very cheesy looking. This may have been an intentional choice as the scene is also very comical, but it is hard not to cringe at it. When it comes to the band members, the costume design is spot on for what you would imagine a glam metal band would wear. Each actor also wears a wig to enhance the look of their characters. Although, the wig worn by Astin is absolutely atrocious and is very distracting every time he is on screen.
Dead Ant is a somewhat cheesy, but delightfully funny film that shows a has-been band pitted against giant killer ants. Carlson does a great job of showing his love for 80’s glam metal, while also making fun of the band members as they attempt to make their comeback. He is great at conveying that duality, the same way he is able to combine comedy and horror into one film. The performances are surprisingly entertaining and the big name actors who appear are even more surprising. The effects aren’t particularly amazing, but they are good enough to keep me entertained. Dead Ant is definitely campy and satirical, resulting in a fun popcorn flick that captures the spirit of 80’s horror/music in a modern day film.
OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10