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King Of The Ants (2003)
Director: Stuart Gordon

review by Steve Anderson

The big problem with King Of The Ants is that it can't quite figure out just what kind of movie it is. It's one heavy part crime drama, and one equally heavy part David Lynch hallucinogenic horror romp. I always hate it when a movie can't seem to figure out what it is. It's as though Stuart Gordon spent a week locked in a closet with Jacob's Ladder, and Reservoir Dogs, and wasn't allowed out until he had watched the both of them 50 times. Then they gave him a hot set and some reasonably big names, including a minor Baldwin, and set him loose to make a movie. The result was King of the Ants.

I'm very alarmed by the presence of George Wendt in this movie. Mostly because I'm not sure why he's here. Did he manage his Cheers royalties this poorly? Is he that broke? Does he somehow find the work of small, direct-to-video releases so very challenging that he'll star in jerkwater productions from freaking DEJ Entertainment? You know, maybe he's just feeling the horror riff he got from co-starring in House so very long ago and just wanted a horror comeback. Maybe he wants to be the old, fat Bruce Campbell!

And what is Stuart Gordon doing making films for DEJ Entertainment anyway? He was the last big draw Full Moon had going for it before it finally collapsed into the studio it is today - Full Moon's new motto should be something like: 'Full Moon Entertainment - where everything looks like a college art film.'

King Of The Ants is disturbing on too many fronts. It has a director that probably shouldn't be there, a cast that shouldn't be there (George Wendt? A Baldwin? Sure, it's just Daniel, but still, it's a Baldwin. Kari Wuhrer? She's almost a new Linnea Quigley, for crying out loud), a set design that looks like they committed way too much on the casting budget. (It's set in downtown Los Angeles, a half-finished desert house, a cheap apartment and a small suburban ranch house. What'd they do, borrow some sets?) Not to mention the story. The story is quite possibly the most disturbing of all.

What we've got here story-wise is the story of Sean, a marginally enterprising young man who, while engaged in his occupation of painting houses, accepts a marginally immoral job from some dubious characters to tail an accountant with City Hall in Los Angeles. He does a pretty fair job of it, to be perfectly honest, and discovers that the accountant is apparently poised to play whistleblower to the local 11 o'clock news. Sean then accepts a much less immoral job... killing said accountant.

The next few days are when the really disturbing stuff comes in. After Sean confuses his orders, the dubious characters take him into the desert and, once a day; smack him in the head with a golf club. From the concussions, Sean hallucinates frequently and degenerates into... well, something. And it's not very pleasant. This is where Stuart Gordon was apparently taking lessons from David Lynch. Hallucinations like these would drive anyone nuts.

Oh, and then there's some stuff that's just plain disturbing just by virtue of its inclusion in King Of The Ants. Folks of the male persuasion, be warned in advance. There will be several scenes featuring things you could really live without ever seeing. Things like Sean's wang (several times), and Sean frantically jerking off to a calendar girl in the middle of a shed. Certain other genders may enjoy this - I really can't speak for them.

Overall, King Of The Ants is a peanut butter and pickle sandwich of a film. The peanut butter crime drama is riveting and stirring. The pickle of horrific aspects is sharp and poignant. Everything is just as it should be, but when they're brought together, the result is just less palatable than the sum of its parts. However, it's a surprising little film that should be worth viewing, for those who are prepared for the sheer disturbing nature of King Of The Ants.

DVD special features include a trailer, a featurette, and a director and actor commentary.
King of the Ants

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