A young drifter discovers his true calling when he's hired by a mobster to stalk and kill a prominent accountant, and then decides to seek revenge when the stingy thugs try to kill him rathe... Read allA young drifter discovers his true calling when he's hired by a mobster to stalk and kill a prominent accountant, and then decides to seek revenge when the stingy thugs try to kill him rather than pay him.A young drifter discovers his true calling when he's hired by a mobster to stalk and kill a prominent accountant, and then decides to seek revenge when the stingy thugs try to kill him rather than pay him.
The story is about Sean, a twenty-something housepainter. He's working with George Wendt, who played another housepainter (Norm) in CHEERS and branches out into being an electrician in this role as "Duke". But while Norm and Duke look damn similar, Duke is a scary guy and a complete a**hole.
Duke quickly realises that Sean is desperate for money to escape his ratty daily grind. Sean is sent to see Matthews... another a**hole played by the reliably loopy and sweaty Daniel Baldwin. Turns out Matthews is a low-level gangster who's willing to pay Sean $13K to kill a lawyer for him. But - after Sean commits the murder - both Duke and Matthews refuse to pay up. Turns out they never believed Sean would take a measly 13K to kill someone, resulting in this great little speech from Duke: "You're nothing. You're a worthless piece of sh** who messed around in something you should have left alone. I don't want to ever see you again... and if I do, I'll kill you and I won't even break into a sweat... You're an insect... you're king of the ants." Yet Sean doesn't give in. Even when he's beaten up, captured and threatened some more. Killing him isn't an option because Sean says his buddy will release information to the police that'll nail Duke and Matthews.
What follows is relentlessly bleak; using violence intelligently (and rarely) to maximise the impact of certain scenes. The brutality - and realism - of the murder makes you feel desperately sorry for the victim. Equally, the torment that Sean is put through - being strapped to a chair and beaten by a golf club until he suffers hallucinations - is very uncomfortable viewing. And that's how a good horror should operate. KING OF THE ANTS doesn't sugar-coat the violence, but it also never allows you to become numb to it.
KING OF THE ANTS works on every level. The bad guys are so vile, you feel like cheering when the disfigured Sean manages to break free. Equally, Sean's descent from a feisty guy to a psychopath is well played. Stuart Gordon isn't flashy in his direction, but the movie's nicely paced and creepily lit. There also some natty latex effects (the wound on Sean's head is particularly impressive) and a truly horrific nightmare sequence, which includes a giant monster eating its own faeces, and a chick with an impressively large chainsaw... oh, and an impressively large penis.
Another thing that lifts KING OF THE ANTS above standard horror/thriller fare is the script, which is adapted from his own novel by British comedy actor Charlie Higson (SWISS TONY, THE FAST SHOW). It's got natural dialogue and a few characters that stick in the head. It's also a clever, deft study of how far a human can be pushed... and what happens when they eventually get chance to push back.
Even as Sean becomes progressively more insane, and dangerously obsessed with his victim's wife, it's still hard not to feel sorry for the guy. You admire him for surviving. And because you feel something for Sean, you're eager to see how things'll turn out for him.
As with other strong low-budget films, it's pretty easy to figure out why KING OF THE ANTS wasn't even a minor hit when it was released. Yes, it doesn't have big stars or a marquee director, but it also didn't do the little things right. It had a dated-looking trailer, poor stock music and a badly designed poster. But its aim is purely to be a good movie, rather than one that revolves around a marketable gimmick. In the long run, the film will win out. Eventually, it'll become a cult movie... so be amongst the first to notice that.
You'll probably have pretty low expectations beforehand, but that's what makes finding a little gem like KING OF THE ANTS all the more gratifying. Give it the good home it deserves, and dig out of the bargain bin at your DVD shop.
- Dec 19, 2010