Field Guide to Invertebrates in Film: Ants!

Ants (1977)
Critter: Poisoned ants, now armed with poison
Size: Less than 0.5 inches long
Modus Operandi: Attack in groups, bite victims and are somehow armed with poison derived from pollution, also equipped with “stickers on their legs that cling to you”
How the Menace Emerges: Unleashed by construction (bulldozers make the ants very angry)
End Goal: To take over a fancy, seaside resort

“Whatever it is, it’s mad because we disturbed it.” Whoooo, scary!

I wanted this to be The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie with ant footage, but sadly Ants! (a.k.a. It Happened at Lakewood Manor) lacks any social commentary whatsoever. It was made for TV and it shows. In theory, this is supposed to come across as a nature-seeks-revenge-for-human-misdeeds flick, but instead it comes across as a love song for bulldozers, fire trucks and helicopters. One of the main difficulties with a number of sub-par horror flicks is a weird obsession with numerous melodramatic plotlines involving people that we’d rather not take the time to know. If the stories mattered or if the characters were humorous caricatures, I’d be happy. Unfortunately, that is not the case in Ants!.

Despite the fact that a number of ants were involved in the making of this picture, the ant invasion is mainly indicated by a confusing bit of black spray paint and coffee grounds. The filmmakers were so proud of the outdoor shot that they used it three times, but it took until the second before I could discern what the heck they were getting at. I suppose that I should be happy that this was made before CGI could ruin the d.i.y. creativity of set designers and special-effects guys, but somehow, I’m still sad.

It does earn extra points for the following scenes: 1) the most ridiculous fall off of a balcony, ever, 2) a delightful scene of cheering onlookers being hosed down with a fire hose after a helicopter accidentally blew ants all over them and 3) a despicable character’s mistaken impression that he could land in a swimming pool from the third story.

Nit-picking Science: Oh, Tom, I sincerely doubt that your “just be still and don’t breathe on them” advice would work in real life, but it did make for a kooky scene I almost enjoyed.

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