Empire of the Ants (1977)
Critter: Multiple members of the family Formicidae
Size: Many variations of huge
Modus Operandi: Gnashing mandible attacks that gorily kill, or sinister coercion for nefarious purposes
How the Menace Emerges: Nuclear waste dumped at sea washes ashore and mutates normal ants into gigantic freak ants!
End Goal: World domination through mind control! Oh, and all of the sugar they can get too.
I’m always a sucker for a bug-horror flick that kicks things off with a doom-saying narrator talking of the wonders and horrors of the insect world. The opener for Empire of the Ants is a classic example of this little joy of mine. Mr. B.I.G. is at it again, this time with a so-called adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1905 story retooled for a modern age. Rather than the ants staying normal-sized and taking over humankind by sheer force, Empire of the Ants opts for a more insidious sort of takeover that will knock your socks off. Since Mr. B.I.G. is at the helm, we know the ants can’t stay the small, insignificant little guys Wells employed.
It’s 20 years down the road from Earth vs. the Spider, and Mr. B.I.G. has learned that on screen attacks make us much happier. In Empire of the Ants, we get models attacking folks combined with back projection ants. We even get up-close gore shots! It seems that Mr. B.I.G. finally got the hang of it after all of these years.
Empire of the Ants stars Joan Collins (Tales from the Crypt) in another of her fabulously bitchy horror roles, this time as a swindling real estate agent trying to bamboozle an odd group of folks into buying crappy swampland in Florida. In many ways, this is a character piece. The characters range from a sleazy, cowardly rapist to a sympathetic older woman, down on her luck and trying not to be swindled out of her last bit of hope and cash. These are stock characters from the 70s but more fleshed out and believable than most. Their personalities come in handy and add interest as the story moves from light conversation to banding together to fight giant, menacing ants and then into even weirder territory. The story of Empire of the Ants is quite a treat. I would have been happy with merely a giant ants stalking humans type story, but no, Mr. B.I.G. had more nefarious plans for his little tale.
Nit-picking Science: 1) Mr. Narrator, there aren’t quite 15,000 known species of ants. To date, there are only 12,471. 2) Hey Sheriff, you’ve been hoodwinked! That’s no queen!