Screamfest Movie Review: DEAD ANT (2017)

In the last decade there has been a rise in self-aware B-Horror films. Due to the reach of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime many filmmakers are getting their films seen without the need of ridiculous distribution to every major movie theater chain. It’s unnecessary in this day in age. If Adam Sandler can just release whatever film he wants straight to Netflix, it seems like anyone can. This is a time where a guy like Ed Wood Jr. would thrive! Even Mystery Science Theater has made it’s way back onto television. (It’s fantastic and you should always watch every episode!) As a lover of B-Horror and especially the self-aware films of the last decade I couldn’t wait to see DEAD ANT, especially getting the opportunity to see it inside of the glorious TCL (Grauman’s) Chinese Theater.

DEAD ANT stars Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings), Jake Busey (Starship Troopers), Rhys Coiro (Entourage), and Leisha Hailey (The L Word) as the not-so-cool ‘80s hair metal band Sonic Grave who, along with their manager Danny played by Tom Arnold, are looking for their big comeback. The kind of comeback where they play to thousands of adoring fans, get paid, get laid, and get high as balls! As they hit the road, on their way to the B-grade NoChella music festival (mostly a stage by some port-o-pottys in the middle of nowhere), they make a stop to grab some inspiration in the form of a Native American’s peyote.

Bigfoot, a Native American played by Michael Horse (Twin Peaks), along with his sidekick Firecracker played by Danny Woodburn (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), sell the goods to the band under one condition, don’t mess with the land. This isn’t some type of Avatar situation about nature and preservation so of course hijinks begin right away and the rest of our story plays out as the band and their groupies joke, get attacked, run for their lives, and try to make it to their gig in the middle of the California desert.

DEAD ANT delivers in a few ways. With a cast like this the biggest hit is by far the jokes. This film and it’s premise has every right to be bad but the writing is so witty and the cast delivers brilliantly. Something I took away from the film is that many of the hysterical moments don’t pause after the punchline. You get the feeling like these characters constantly riff off each other like this daily and they are just used to it. On the red carpet I talked with Sydney Sweeney and Joi Liaye, two of the groupies in the film, and they assured me that the cast had the go ahead to spitball jokes and to go off script. They often made each other laugh and really bonding on set. It definitely seemed like it as this cast gels perfectly.

A highlight from the film is Jake Busey’s Merrick explaining how he can get into the mind of an ant and he knows how they live. Merrick, the lead singer of the band, always seems to be off in his own space being the artistic rocker. It was amusing to watch play out on screen throughout.

Another highlight of this film was the clear nods to other films. Merrick and Danny sitting in the back of the truck as ants chase them definitely feels like a nod to Jurassic Park as does a scene with a port-o-potty. Of course this is all a huge homage to the giant bug and creature films of 1950s sci-fi and the comparisons are endless to films like Them, The Black Scorpion, and others. It was great to see a film like this know where it came from and respect the creature features that came before it.

Honestly this film is something to look out for, whether it’s something you find at a theater, watch on Netflix, or whatever. Just see this film, especially with a group of friends. It’s the kind of movie to be enjoyed with a group of friends knocking back some drinks, and knowing that you aren’t seeing the next Oscar nominated film of the year and that’s totally okay. Just turn your brain off and enjoy the nonsense!

Josh Taylor
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