King of the Ants (2003) Poster

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One of Stuart Gordon's best movies in years
krachtm20 December 2012
The plot: A double-crossed hit-man has to choose between redemption and vengeance, until the the choice is made for him.

Many of Stuart Gordon's movies have an amoral streak in them, but this is probably the most amoral movie that he's ever made. The lack of tension-relieving, wacky humor, like in most of his movies, highlights it and makes it even more disturbing. The gory violence just makes it even more disturbing, unlike the splatter comedies that he's commonly associated with (such as Re-Animator and From Beyond).

Long-time fans of Gordon have probably sat through many movies that were critically despised (perhaps none more so than Space Truckers, which attracts way too much hate, in my opinion). King of the Ants, however, is a real return to greatness. Yes, there are many disturbing, weird, and violent scenes, but underneath it all is a story that's actually quite intelligent and mature. Admittedly, this is a bit rare for Gordon, who tends to wallow in direct-to-video exploitation. I'm really glad that he chose to do something that he obviously believes in, because I've known for years that he could do a truly great film, if he just got the budget and proper inspiration. I might compare it to A History of Violence, an intriguing deconstruction of violent exploitation movies, made by a lauded director known primarily for his own exploitation movies. Unlike Cronenberg, however, I think Gordon shows no desire to break into the mainstream. His films remain too dark and disturbing.

If movies like King of the Ants and A History of Violence show us just one thing, it's that characters from these kinds of violent movies are incredibly disturbing when transposed into real world situations.
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VERY interesting movie
jluis198421 November 2005
Stuart Gordon, considered a master of the horror genre thanks to classics like Re-Animator and Dagon, decides to do a different move in this strange trip to human morals.

"King of the Ants" is about a regular guy, Sean Crawley(newcomer Chris McKenna), a man without any aspiration who just live in his apartment doing the necessary job to live to the next day. In one of his jobs he meets Duke(Gearge Wendt), who introduces Sean to his boss, Ray Matthews(played by Daniel Baldwin). Ray hires Sean as a spy, and orders him to follow Eric Gatlin(Roy Livingstone), an accountant who has been investigating Ray's company. Problems start when Ray, while drunk, orders Sean to kill Eric. And he does it. Things go wrong when Ray decides to make Sean disappear destroying his mind with violent punishment and humiliation.

From the point where Sean kills Eric, we go in the same boat with him, as he goes through a downward spiral of human degradation, traveling from guilt, to confusion and finally to his rebirth, in a state where humanity, morals and values are not important anymore. Chris McKenna acting is very important because he manages to be likable even when he is part of gruesome acts, both as victim and/or criminal. He has that look of innocence that hides a dark side and he manages to carry the film.

The support cast also includes Kari Wuhrer, as Eric's widow who also becomes a central part of Sean's trip to hell. She gives a fine performance, although it's obvious that Sean is the main character. He is the most developed of all and McKenna's performance is up to the challenge.

The film has very disturbing images of violence, and while it may not be as graphic as "Kill Bill" for example, the strength of the violence is in the lack of humanity that the character manifest. He is more than an ant in this world. He is the king.

Stuart Gordon has managed to create a film that, while maybe it's not one of his best efforts; it's very well done, has a VERY interesting story to tell, and manages to capture the attention every second of it.

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Disturbingly Wonderful
PulpVideo20 May 2005
The last good film Stuart Gordon made was 1985's "Re- Animator," which I also give a 7 of 10.

I mention the former mainly because this film is just as gripping and disturbing. This is not a horror-movie like the former, but it is "horrific" with its peculiar violent realism.

Not much by way of character-development for the protagonist, but in this case, the less said about him the better, or we may not come around to be sympathetic with him when it counts. What we do know of the character Sean Crawley is pretty damn ugly, but unknown actor Chris McKenna has a screen presence that makes him somewhat likable, or at least puts us in his corner in the end.

This film is not a good choice for mixed company, much less a date, but worth watching when home alone and prepared to be wonderfully disturbed.
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Insignificant Man, Powerful Payback
claudio_carvalho28 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The handyman Sean Crawler (Chris L. McKenna) meets the electrician Duke Wayne (George Wendt) while painting a house and they drink a couple of beers together and have a small talk. A couple of days later, Duke offers a job to Sean, and they meet the corrupt constructor Ray Matthews (Daniel Baldwyn) in a golf club. Ray proposes Sean to stalk the accountant from the City Hall Eric Gatley (Ron Livingston), who is investigating him, and report every movement of Eric to Ray. While chasing Eric, Sean sees his wife Susan (Kari Wuhrer) and has a crush on her. When Ray offers US$ 13,000.00 to Sean to kill Eric, he accepts, but steals Ray's dossier before leaving the crime scene. However Sean is double-crossed by Ray and is brutally tortured by the real estate mobster and his men in a lonely ranch, but he does not tell where the file is. Sean succeeds in escaping, but severely wounded, he goes to the mission where Susan works and four weeks later he is healed. He tries to start a new life with Susan, but when she finds the documents and the truth about him, he plots a powerful revenge against Ray and his men.

"The King of the Ants" is a great bizarre thriller, with a good amoral story of manipulation, crime, humiliation and payback supported e by excellent screenplay, direction and performances. The nightmares and daydreams of Sean in the period he is tortured with a club of golf is disturbing, disgusting and nasty in some moments, but absolutely original. It is weird to see the gorgeous and sexy Kari Wuhrer having a penis, but the scene is absolutely inside the context of the mental state of Sean. I liked very much the performances of Kari Wuhrer, Chris L. McKenna, George Wendt and the cynical character of Daniel Baldwyn. Ron Livingston has a minor but effective participation. The horror of this movie is related to the torture and the deaths, and I felt quite disturbed with the stupid torture that Sean is submitted. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Tratamento de Choque" ("Shock Treatment")
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Really quite good
TheLittleSongbird10 January 2013
Apart from some moments of shoddy photography, an ending that for me fell emotionally flat and Daniel Baldwin annoyingly chewing the scenery to pieces, I found myself quite liking King of the Ants. Not all the photography is bad, on the most part it does look good and the same goes with the rest of the production values. The dialogue at least engages thought, while the story is cleverly written with suspense, thrills and a truly shocking murder scene, not predictable and held my attention all the way through. The characters are the sorts that are extremely flawed but in the end you identify with them, the lead character especially. The direction is taut, while I was surprised at how good the acting was. Chris McKenna is likable in the lead role but it's George Wendt's funny and frightening performance that makes the strongest impression. Overall, while not perfect King of the Ants was really quite good. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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a great feel bad movie.
savage220200117 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Wow! Rarely have I seen a film show events this sensational while at the same time feeling this realistic. What would it be like to be a hit-man? Apparently, not very fun. This movie shows the development of Sean Crawley from a directionless nobody to an unfeeling killer, and boy, is that metamorphosis painful. Young Sean Crawley is working as a painter when he meets Wayne Duke, a gregarious "cowboy electrician" (George Wendt, in "I am not Norm" mode) who introduces him to a construction mogul (some Baldwin, not Stephen or Alec, thank god) who offers Sean the opportunity to make some extra cash following a city accountant (the guy from Office Space who was dating the chick from Friends). Things turn dark when the Baldwin offers Sean some real money if he offs the guy. Sean accepts, executes the murder, which is one of the most gut wrenching scenes I have ever seen. You REALLY feel the confusion, apprehension, pain and insanity of killing an innocent stranger (I assume). You also get to see Sean's reaction after the fact, he looks like a young girl who just turned her first trick (once again, I assume. J/K, pimpin ain't easy). Sean tries to get his money afterwards, but Baldwin backs out, and sends Wendt to make sure that Sean makes himself scarce. Sean tries to blackmail Baldwin, and Baldwin's response is dumb enough to seem like a real hoods mind at work. He decides to beat Sean around the head with a golf club until Sean's a vegetable, or at least forgets everything that happens. The next several minutes involve Sean in a shed alternately delirious and hallucinating and getting uglier. This sequence is most disturbing for the resignation of the parties involved. The hoods know their going to beat Sean retarded, and Sean knows he's powerless to do anything, to the point where he even wraps the piece of foam that the hoods have been using to prevent marks and fatal bleeding around his own head. Then Sean snaps. He dispatches Wendt in a very efficient manner, and is rescued by a friend, who, learning more about what is actually going on, ditches Sean. Sean makes his way to a mission where the wife of the accountant he killed works (Kari Wurher, she is nice). She nurses the disfigured him back to health, and even lets him stay at her house (yes, rather awkward) when he can no longer stay at the shelter. A romance eventually blooms, but is short lived, as she soon finds out Sean's background. He kills her (accidentally?), and then goes and kills the bad guys at the ranch where his torture took place. This last scene shows the final stage in Seans metamorphosis, and it is chilling. He kills the thugs in a heartless, inevitable manner. He is fulfilling his purpose, nothing more, nothing less. The existential themes he discusses in this scene are nihlistic and simplistic, but the logic does hold up, unfortunately. Overall, a well made thriller that leaves you feeling uneasy. Sean transforms so naturally. He still has the same personality on the surface that he displayed at the beginning of the film, charming and affable, but what he is capable of is so grisly and remorseless that he becomes a truly terrifying figure. The other characters in the film serve to enable that transformation, and they do so believably. This film is a great character study, and the actor portraying Sean does a great job at seeming like an everyman, so much so that it allows you to examine the films themes on a personal level. This is a thought provoking film, which I would highly recommend. Not for the squeamish, though.
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Lord of the Flies
Magdagator9 June 2006
I couldn't avoid relating it to the most disturbing novel I've ever read: "Lord of the Flies" (William Golding, 1954) I won't go into details, but suffice to say that both this movie and the book deal with the dark side of human nature and both have perturbing effects on our minds and consciences. Those who are familiar with the book will know what I mean.

The characters in both the movie and the book live detached from society, their rules and morals: In 'Lord of the Flies' British kids, educated in a private school, are castaways stranded in a wild island. Eventually their civilized coat wears off and their inner savagery shows (safe a few characters who remain civilized). Sean Crawly (Chris McKenna) is a current boy, but he is also a dormant killer. Favourable circumstances(money and impunity) will trigger his wicked self.

I've read fuming comments here in the style of "how on earth such normal boy is able to become a killer? This movie is bad!" What turns our stomachs is that his victim is innocent. The scene of the killing is horrifying but what makes it unbearable is that we know that Crawly knows he is killing an honest man. We don't feel so uncomfortable anymore when Crawly takes his revenge.

The scene with Sean Crawly and Duke (George Wendt) at the zoo is also significant. Duke explains how humans can be compared with animals. Notice the pun in Sean's surname (Crawly) and how he is compared with a reptile and also with an ant.

I find that the title of the movie and Duke's cut-of head may be a conspiratorial wink to 'Lord of the Flies'. Maybe it's a coincidence, but the similarities are too obvious to be ignored.

This is a horror film. We may like the plot or not, agree with its development and ending or not, but.. kudos for all the actors and their director. In my opinion their performances are convincing and irreproachable.
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Wow! Caught this movie on late nite cable and was blown away
muze2222-17 December 2004
I caught this movie one night as I was surfing and stopped just long enough to catch this charismatic star in a really underrated little sleeper. The first half of this movie gave me an uneasy feeling; the same feeling I had when I watched "Last House on the Left" for the first time. Watching the lead character beaten mercilessly with a "driver" in a shed until his face is disfigured, generated an enormous amount of pity. I found myself in the awkward position of caring for a hit man who ends up killing several people.

That speaks volumes for the charisma and artistry of the actor playing Sean. This is definitely a cut above the average late nite fare; the script takes some amateur turns, but the cast keeps it from becoming camp.
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manitobaman816 September 2014
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. For me it was kind of hard to get a grip from the beginning because there was nothing that would have explained who the main characters were and what was their goal and so on. This left the characters really shallow and the dialogue between them was something out of a bum disco. While there is some strong personality being displayed, it is done in a way that is truthful to human nature. I think it could use some editing to speed the pace a bit. The film is hard to watch at times and difficult to call enjoyable. 7/10.
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Surprised, very surprised.
larsan1115 June 2011
It is getting longer and longer between the movie experiences: Woow. Got to say that this film was laying around in a year before I put in my player - didn't have any higher expectations. Gordon's, Wendt's and Baldwin's names draw me to it as the thought of it being a Them 2 or something. When there is a lot of reviews about the storyline and the movie in general I skip that part. The movie makes the thoughts wander towards "The Lord of the Flies" in retrospect and is a very believable "version". Whenever violence really feels in your seat or when a killing makes you squirm because of the tormenting knowledge of just how very wrong it is it's just Good directing. On to that, one's moral compass is challenged more than one time - and that is brave movie making. There are some things one might be curious of: is that drooling man at the mission the same man that got that cement block...? what are in those papers? To that I will say: Kudos to Stuart Gordon that Knows that that kind of information is just best left out (I'm so tired of getting every single fact written on my nose whenever I see movies by nervous Hacks!) The man knows that the viewers brains do have the ability to imagine stuff - and the brain works more effective when it doesn't know everything. A movie about Humans and what humanity contains. Every dog has it's day - and every average guy can be king.

But it is not a "nice" film. Caution.
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Criminally underrated, insightful movie
MurderSlimPress19 December 2010
Stuart Gordon is not one of the most famous horror directors, but he's made a number of excellent movies (RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, EDMOND) and only a couple of truly bad 'uns (DAGON, ROBOT JOX). Like EDMOND, KING OF THE ANTS is more of a thriller... but ANTS has a number of truly horrific scenes that should ensure its appeal to horror fans.

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.
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You'll never look at Norm from Cheers the same way again
MBunge17 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
There's about a zillion movies like King of the Ants sitting on video store shelves or floating around the internet to be bought or rented. You've never heard of them and you don't know anything about them. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of those films suck and suck hard. Some of them are so bad you can't understand why the filmmakers didn't save themselves the embarrassment and burn all the tapes rather than release it to public scorn. Every once in a while, though, one of those unknown films turns out to be pretty good. King of the Ants is one of those good ones.

Sean Crawley (Chris L. McKenna) is down on his luck. He lives in a crappy apartment and takes whatever menial jobs he can find to pay the bills. On a house painting job he runs into "Duke" Wayne (George Wendt), a rotund electrician who winds up asking Sean what is his dream in life. "Duke" laughs at Sean's fantasy of being a private eye like the ones in the movies, whose lives are filled with fast cars and faster women, but he takes something about it seriously. Sean gets introduced to "Duke's" boss, Ray Matthews (Daniel Baldwin). Ray asks Sean to spy on an accountant who works for the city. Sean follows him around, catches sight of the accountant's beautiful wife, and reports back to "Duke".

Then Ray shows up at Sean's crappy apartment, drunk and disheveled late one night, and asks Sean if he'll kill the accountant. Sean hems and haws and insists on a lot of conditions, but he agrees to do it. After the disturbingly difficult murder, Sean wants his money. "Duke", however, makes it clear to Sean that the murder was a mistake, Sean's not getting any money and should just get the hell out of town. Thinking this is just like the movies, Sean demands his money and lets "Duke" know that if anything happens to him a file will be sent to the cops, implicating Ray in the accountant's murder.

Sean thinks they may beat him up a little but they won't kill him as long as they don't have the file. That's when Sean gets dragged out to a shed in the desert and Ray informs him that they aren't going to kill him. They're just going to beat him until he's left a brainless vegetable. Maybe the file will come out and maybe it won't. Ray is willing to take his chances on that. What follows is a series of beatings that are closer to the unvarnished brutality of the original The Last House on the Left than most movies ever try to get and hallucinations that are honestly disturbing. If you want to know what happens to Sean after the shed and what becomes of the dead accountant's beautiful wife…you'll have to watch the film yourself.

There are a lot of nice things about King of the Ants. I think what's most praiseworthy is its untheatrical approach to violence. Beating and killing people in the real world is a hard, ugly and messy business and that's the way it is in this movie. On paper, the stuff that happens in this story is relatively tame by modern standards of cinematic carnage. But the acts of violence are so simply and starkly presented, with no effort to exaggerate or make it look more impressive, that it is all far more powerful and affecting than the vastly more elaborate ballets of death and destruction in other movies.

Acting-wise, Chris L. McKenna is okay and Daniel Baldwin chews a bit too much scenery. George Wendt, however, does a very fine job as "Duke". Wendt creates a frightening character without ever going over the top or being too stylish or mannered in his performance. "Duke" isn't crazy or casually vicious. He would have been happy to have Sean simply get out of town. He's just a guy who has no problem inflicting pain and suffering on other people if he's told it's necessary. The two henchmen who help Duke, played by Lionel Mark Smith and Vernon Wells, are also disconcertingly normal. Most movie villains are different than ordinary people. They're more charismatic or more disturbed, but they very much fit the role of The Other. "Duke" and his thugs are just like the guys who see down at the bar or sit next to you at the football game, making them and their actions more shocking and horrifying.

King of the Ants isn't perfect. There's some fairly shoddy camera-work throughout the film and the movie ignores the fact that Sean is just as bad (or maybe even worse) than Ray and his guys. That becomes a bit of a problem in the second half of the film and renders the ending somewhat emotionally sterile.

Quibbling aside, the folks who made King of the Ants had a real story to tell with a real point to make. If you just look at the DVD cover on the shelf or on your computer screen, you'll think it's just like all those other sucky movies you've never heard of. I'm here to tell you it's a lot better than that.
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This nihilistic, compelling, crime thriller is well done.
hu67523 November 2005
An aimless young man by the name of Sean (Chris L. McKenna) is been hired by a sleazy construction owner (Daniel Baldwin) to follow a man (Ron Livingston), who works as an accountant for City Hall. Sean has an fascination by the man's wife (Kari Wuhrer), which he's following. Sean is been hired to murder this accountant but when he does murder this man. Sean is been double-crossed by the man, who hired him and getting beaten by his three thugs (George Wendt, Vernon Wells and Lionel Mark Smith). When Sean does escaped from these sadistic mens and a month has passed... He's slowly taking revenge on these man, who double-crossed him and abused him. But Sean makes an mistake by starting an relationship with the woman, which Sean killed her late husband.

Directed by Stuart Gordon (Edmond, Fortress, Re-Animator) made an horrific crime thriller. Some might called this an horror film (Which the director calls this a horror movie) or an crime thriller. But the film plays in both ways. McKenna gives an terrific performance, since he's the only unknown actor in the picture. The supporting cast are good and this movie does have some dark humour.

DVD has an good anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) transfer and an good-Dolby 2.0 Surround Sound. DVD also has an high spirited commentary track by the director and actors:McKenna and Wendt. DVD also has an featurette and an trailer. Too bad, the DVD doesn't have any deleted scenes. Since the director and the two cast members mentions scenes were deleted from the rough cut. This well directed film was shot under a million dollars but it doesn't show. Sean's hallucinations and his imagination gets to be a bit much at times but it plays better in a reader imagination, since this movie is based on a novel by Charles Higson. Which Higson also wrote the screenplay for this film. Higson, Gordon and Wendt are among the co-producers of the picture. This is one of Gordon's best films. Since the violence is brutal and it has some unsympathetic characters, this is not for all tastes. Livingston's small key role is uncredited. (****/*****).
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Amazing Little Flick!
vancelongwell1 May 2010
Stunning film. This sort of has the look, and feel, of a very low budget project. But, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that isn't the case. What a fantastic little film. Chris McKenna in the lead did so good, he deserves a small hug. He brought A-game, all the way, and it would be interesting to see him develop. George Wendt in this just did what we always thought maybe he could do. By 'we', I mean ' I '. I'm SO glad to see him in this! The supporting roles were acted really well by people I've never seen. Daniel Baldwin holding it all together, nice one buddy. Yeah, this one was gripping from the opening scene, Act I, through the finale.

Definitely not for the squeamish. Really disturbing imagery. But not of the over-the-top kind. Just plain-old, garden variety, messed-up, get in your head, stuff that is blended perfectly into the film. Almost incredibly demented yet completely genuine, dare I say, earnest? Shiver. In my honest opinion they really broke some ground here.

I gave this guy 9 stars. I never, and I mean never, rate above 5-6. I highly recommend giving this one a chance. I also highly recommend not doing so anywhere near meal-time. Don't say you haven't been warned!
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Decent little thriller.
poolandrews27 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
King of the Ants tells the tale of a young guy named Sean Crawley (Chris McKenna) who does whatever he can to earn a living where he lives in California, he meets a guy named Duke Wayne (co-producer George Wendt) who introduces Sean to his crooked property developer boss Ray Mathews (Daniel Baldwin) who hires him to follow a TV news reporter named Eric Gatley (Ron Livingston). At first Sean is told to just follow him & see what he does, however Ray then offers Sean money to kill Eric which Sean agrees to. Sean does the dirty deed but then has trouble getting his money from Ray, very quickly things turn nasty as lots of pain is handed out & lots of blood spilt...

Co-produced & directed by Stuart Gordon who is well known amongst horror fans for various impressive gore filled splatter efforts including Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986) & Dolls (1987) King of the Ants is a different kind of film from Gordon & one that I actually rather liked. The script by Charlie Higson based on his own novel takes itself extremely seriously & is a crime drama more than anything else & quite a brutal one at times. The thing which makes King of the Ants so effective are the character's & the sharp dialogue of the sort Quentin Tarantino made so popular in Pulp Fiction (1994), the little story Ray tells Sean just before he ask's him to kill Eric is one good example. All of the character's are well fleshed out & Sean is a suitably likable underdog to root for while Ray & his men are nasty enough villains. The film & narrative flows along at nice pace, the story unfolds in an engaging way that keeps you watching & just about enough is kept back for it not to be too predictable. I liked it, it's as simple & straight forward as that really.

Director Gordon goes for the hand-held approach, it's a little shaky to give it that gritty documentary style but he never overdoes it & the on screen action is always clear & concise. There are one or two violent moments including Sean being hit with golf clubs in a series of scenes which have a really unpleasant tone & atmosphere about them & Gordon does a great job during these scenes.

The budget probably wasn't that high but it looks good & is very well made for what it is. The acting is very good & George Wendt is just plain funny & fantastic to watch.

King of the Ants is actually a bizarre title that does have some relevance but not much & I don't think that the odd sounding title does it any favours but I liked it & I'm sure those who are looking for something a bit different will too, definitely worth a watch in my opinion.
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Surprisingly gritty shocker from Stuart 'Reanimator' Gordon.
BA_Harrison9 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Knowing nothing about this movie except that it was directed by Stuart Gordon, I was expecting something along the lines of a 50s-style monster movie, but with tons of gore. Boy, was I surprised when I popped in that disc and was confronted with this brutal tale of murder for money, double crossing scumbags and bloody retribution.

With King of the Ants, Gordon, master of schlock horror and crazy sci-fi, presents an altogether more gritty affair than his usual output. By combining a rough visual style (that utilises hand-held camera-work to great effect) with his unflinching eye for violent detail, he delivers a shocking film that is genuinely disturbing.

Sean Crawley (Chris McKenna) is a loser; he lives on his own and has a crap job painting houses—that is, until he meets an electrician named Duke (George Wendt), who gets him a job working for Ray Mathews (Daniel Baldwin), a decidedly shady businessman. Sean is hired to follow Eric Gatley, an accountant who has been investigating Ray's property company. When it becomes obvious that Eric is collecting evidence against Ray, Sean is offered a bonus... but only if he successfully manages to 'dispose' of the accountant.

Stuart Gordon is certainly no stranger to the gore having directed 80s splatter-fest Reanimator, but with King of the Ants, the horror is less to do with schlock and more to do with shock. The murder scene is savage beyond words and those of a sensitive disposition are advised to stay well away. This raw violence continues throughout the movie, making it a thoroughly gruelling experience.

Things really get interesting when Ray refuses to pay Sean for his heinous deed. Sean threatens to expose Ray and his goons, and ends up wishing he had stuck to painting. Ray's men submit Sean to days of mental and physical torture during which Sean is beaten repeatedly round the head with golf clubs. Sean eventually escapes and exacts revenge on his tormentors.

When both sets of protagonists are equally vile examples of humanity, it is strange to find yourself rooting for Sean when the bloody finale arrives. This is a guy who has destroyed a loving family unit for money, yet we still feel that somehow he has been wronged. This is the brilliance of Gordon's film; it makes the viewer uneasy about identifying with Sean after everything he has done, questioning our own sense of morality.

Watch King of the Ants and see what I mean.
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Extreme Realism + Existentialism = Excellent B Movie
eremine9 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I really like B movies. However I like them for different reasons. Some good B movies are nothing more than blunt rip-offs of the main stream Hollywood movies, in which case they might be cheesy, funny, bizarre, and most importantly entertaining. Shark Attack 2 and 3 are good examples of this type.

Another type of good B movies includes the ones that are simply more creative and ballsy than your typical cliché Hollywood big budget production. The directors of this type of B movies movies do not have giant-super-studio executives breathing down their necks, downgrading their movies to PG-13, leaving the most interesting stuff on the cutting room floor, and turning the movies into little more than sound monetary investments. This type of B movies is what moves the cinematography forward, one little step at a time... "King of the Ants" is a wonderful example of that.

It's hard to categorize this movie. It's part film noir, part action thriller, part (pitch) black comedy, part horror movie of the "Wolf Creek" or "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" type. Sure, like many B movies it has its fair share of T&A, however it never turned into a fully fledged exploitation movie, and Kari Wuhrer's boobs never disrupted the overall existentialist mood of the film. The acting was above par, and I was extremely happy with everyone's performance. Dialogue was a little uneven - not always perfect and even a little cheesy at times, but at other times it was truly excellent, realistic, and even bizarre, in the very best meaning of this word.

I don't want to spoil it for anybody and not going to recap the plot of this movie, but I do want to mention a few things that really made this movie to become one of my all time favorites:

Murder is excellently portrayed in all of its banality. The murder scene is simply stunning. The ease with which the murder is often portrayed in the movies nowadays might contribute to the ease with which adults and teenagers pick up a weapon and kill someone nowadays. In "King of Ants," on the other hand, the murder is portrayed not as something evil, or horrifying, but extremely prosaic, absurd, and yet extremely WRONG. The protagonist was not pictured in simple black and white, and I couldn't help but sympathize with him and hate him at the same time... Hallucinations of the protagonist were also extremely realistic. I was unfortunate enough to experience hallucinations of my own a few years ago, and I must tell you that "King of Ants" made them look so natural they could have easily been the products of my own delirium tremens.

Overall, the existentialist message and amazing realism are the two main reasons why this movie has become one of my favorites. And I highly recommend this movie to everyone. A word of warning – the movie is extremely graphic and at times gory. If you think you can stomach it – watch it. Otherwise, you might be better off reading the book instead.
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The Asylum's Best Release
Scars_Remain28 January 2008
We all know about The Asylum. The company that shamelessly rips off major releases and put their films out at the same time ala Transmorphers, I Am Omega, Alien vs. Hunter. This is the one film of theirs that I've seen that is totally original and, for that matter, good. King of the Ants is a disturbing, almost neo-exploitation film that will have you feeling a sense of dread the entire way through.

The cast is all good and it features veterans such as George Wendt of Cheers fame and of course, Daniel Baldwin. Newcomer Chris McKenna also does a fantastic job. The story is great, the effects are awesome and the gore is also amazing. Though, I think it would be ignorant to expect anything less from Stuart Gordon.

If you want a disturbing film with good acting, definitely give this one a chance. It is great.
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Sick and unpleasant watch
mkw-58 February 2006
This movie is written by Charlie Higson, who has before this done the "legendary" Fast Show and his own show based on one of Fast Show's characters (Tony the car sales man). He's also written James Bond books for kids.

Actually I've seen before this only Gordon's movies that are based on Lovecraft's stories, and every one of those is marvelous. Here Gordon tries to do something different. The style is totally "contemporary", which means shaky camera, fast and strange cutting, cool chillout music in the background. It works quite well here, I guess, but it's still pointless and cheap. It makes me often think of the cameraman who's shaking his dv-camera in front of the actors/actresses and try to make stylish moves in the pictures (hoping that something tolerable would come out of it). The casting is good, and there is a whole atmosphere, which is the result of good directing. I think the main character, the "zero" young guy, is quite interesting in his "zeroness". The fat guy is also good. And the guy who looks like Alec Baldwin, but is not him. But pretty soon after the beginning the movie turns out to be something not-so-interesting: In this case I mean an endless line of scenes of sadism and sickness. There is not much humanity in this film/story: It's totally pessimistic, and every person in this movie is disgusting and hopeless, or soon dead. Needless to say that there is no humor either. It's a 1'40 long vomit without no relief in any moment. Anyway, Gordon remains to me one of the most interesting movie makers that are active today, and I think of this movie as an experiment, and as a failure in that. Everyone has to experience getting lost sometimes, just to learn and to find their way again. This might be Gordon's most uninteresting and empty work.
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Not as Gory As I Expected
jordan224026 July 2004
From some of the recent reviews of this film, I expected gore like none I'd ever seen before. Frankly, I thought they were a little off base. The "torture" consists of the same act each day, and while it isn't something I'd particularly like to experience myself, it could have been much worse. I found the torture scenes in "Marathon Man" and "Braveheart," to name just two, to be much more disturbing.

One thing I really didn't like about this movie was that none of the major characters is particularly likable. The tortured fella probably deserves what he gets, and the revenge he exacts isn't particularly just considering one of his victims treated him rather well when he was a captive.

All in all, I wasn't bored watching this movie, but I wouldn't recommend it. The story isn't particularly compelling, the romance isn't believable, and the gore factor isn't even that high.
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Twisted, unusually vile,and very effective thriller!
plpregent29 October 2011
I rented this film a few years back, not knowing what to expect. I'll always be curious to watch a Stuart Gordon film, so I thought, meh, why not?

While King of the Ants kicks off smoothly, letting you know who the main character is, it unfolds without pulling any punches, neither morally, nor graphically. There are moments where your jaw is going to drop in disbelief, from how demented some plot twists happen to be. And visually, it does go pretty far. Be aware, when it comes to pure savagery, King of the Ants unleashes the heavy artillery.

That said, the real shocks result mostly from Sean Crawley's character, and the whole "hunted becomes the hunter" dynamic that he settles, after going through a psychological process that's delightfully built up through this nightmarish series of events and subplots. Without going too deep or pretending to be anyhow intellectual, it's actually an interesting behaviour study, paved with ever-growing, palpable tension.

There are a few silly moments, like the fight between Crawley and Kari Wurher's character, and Crawley's nightmares, but they're easily forgotten and don't affect the overall quality of the flick. In terms of directing, Gordon pulls it off, hands down. The cast delivers as well, especially newcomer Chris McKenna, who plays a progressively disturbed Sean Crawley.

This is not your typical, Oscar material type of film, don't get me wrong. This film didn't cost 200 million dollars, but you very rarely get the feeling that it's cheap, or that the budget was low. It's just a well-written, efficiently directed, sneaky little film that will take you by surprise with its downward spiral of events. You won't believe how disparate the ending is when compared to how the film begins. Pure craziness. And the way it's brought up, and with the "everyday feeling" that it provides, you'll find yourself thinking : "things like that probably really happen". It makes the whole experience even creepier.

You should appreciate King of the Ants if you're not too squeamish, and can enjoy a good old super-twisted thriller with a plot that takes unexpected turns. Think of a Shallow Grave type of tone, with the brutality and story elements from I Spit on Your Grave. But meaner, bloodier, maybe not as great cinematically speaking (even though it's very competent in every cinematic department), but satisfying nonetheless. Makes me want to read the Charlie Higson novel it's inspired from.


Scoring system: (1)Masterpiece (2)Remarkable (3)Very Good (4)Good (5)Average (6)Bad (7)Awful
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"Sometimes you've gotta be a little ruthless."
Backlash00714 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers

Stuart Gordon has done some much beloved, cult horror films over the years. These over-the-top classics include Re-animator, From Beyond, and Castle Freak. If you've seen any of those films you know Gordon has a flair for pushing the envelope. But none of these movies, not one, come close to the disturbing nature of King of the Ants. I don't want to spoil anything for the viewer but Gordon, unlike many of his contemporaries, has not gotten softer with age. It's not a horror film in the traditional sense. King of the Ants is more along the lines of I Spit on Your Grave or Thriller: A Cruel Picture. The only thing that's missing here is that 70's grittiness. But it captures all of the other elements. I just want to say how impressed I was with newcomer Chris McKenna. He slips from naive and aimless to cold and calculating effortlessly. McKenna leads an excellent ensemble cast here (including Kari Wuhrer, George Wendt, Vernon Wells, and Daniel Baldwin) and I feel he may have trouble getting future work because he really put himself out there for this role. King of the Ants is one of those films that you only need to see once because you won't soon forget it.
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Weird, Too Weird
jrfranklin0115 July 2004
This movie was an attempt to go into places most don't and perhaps shouldn't venture into. It was a similar trial at the bizarre, head-case perspective given to us in The Cell, although not near as in-depth and well portrayed. The plot is constructed simply with an initial campy feel to it. Then, as the movie takes its supposed "dramatic" turn, the plot falls apart on what few legs it had to stand on in the first place.

Basically the idea is that of a kid (Chris McKenna) who needs money. He takes on the role of a hit man, killing a city accountant. Then he doesn't get paid for his work but instead gets tortured for several days because he dreamed up the "brilliant" idea of trying to use a backup file he had as leverage for payment. This idiotic move at trying to force them to pay him backfires as he is horribly and endlessly abused. He begins to go crazy (some very disturbing scenes). Then, thinking he has paid for his sins and can start over, he visits the wife (Kari Wuhrer) of the man who he killed and wins her affections. Soon after she discovers who he is, tragedy strikes, and revenge sweeps through the air as the boy goes after his torturers (Daniel Baldwin, George Wendt, Vernon Wells) for their previous "kindness".

I got to ask though, what is it with Kari Wuhrer and horror/gore type films?

It seems everything she has put out lately has been in this genre. Granted, I liked her in "Eight-Legged Freaks" and she was okay in "Anaconda". But despite all her obvious cuteness and allure (wow, she's hot!), she can act much better and chose better roles. Or maybe, I'm wrong and that is just a misconception. For all you guys out there, you get to see the "fully monty" of her in this film, although it's rather bizarre and short-lived. I almost felt like she did some soft-porn after watching this film (something not foreign to Kari's career). The sex-simulation is such that it has to make you wonder what things really go on during filming.

Anyway, I will say there is some good acting. Just don't expect much of it from Daniel Balwin, whose career seems forever destined to second his brother Alex's. The film did bring out a few old greats though, George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) and Vernon Wells (Commando, Weird Science). Above all, Chris McKenna does the best job in playing the main character, Sean Crawley. His little acting experience and yet his believable nature as a naive youth, bring some elements of substance to the film.

I wouldn't go out of my way for this one. If you're bored and are tired of the same old episodes of "The Hitchhiker", then I might advise watching this.

And Kari, please start acting in some better films!
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Dull and illogical
LARSONRD4 July 2005
A film without conscience. Drifter agrees to kill a man for a mobster for money. Then they double cross him. Meanwhile he falls in love with the dead man's wife, and, without her knowing he's the killer, moves in with her. Then he "accidentally" kills her when she finds out. Then, in a WALKING TALL kind of heroism, he gets revenge on the mobsters who double crossed him. The first problem is that, by agreeing to take on the murder by hire assignment, the drifter loses all sense of sympathy, worthiness, and heroism. We can't accept any goodness in him and as a result the rest of the has no moral center. We just can't care about that kind of guy. And the wife (nicely played by the fetching Kari Wuhrer - the sheriff in EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS), a high class lady who runs a mission for homeless people, similarly loses a degree of sympathy by jumping right into bed with the homeless drifter (despite her evidently weakened state after the death of her husband). And, when she finds out he's the guy – what does she do? She locks him inside her house (as if ALL houses had locks you can't open from INSIDE) with her and proceeds to berate him. Stoo-pid. George Wendt, however, is terrific in a role as a beefy thug. Director Stuart Gordon did so much better with RE-ANIMATOR and DAGON.
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A Waste of Film
caspian19783 October 2003
I'm sorry, but this film was God awful. For starters, for a film, it looked like it was shot on Mini-DV let alone 35mm. The big names in the cast did draw my attention, but once I got to see what it was all about, I had nothing good to say about it. For a horror movie.....where was the horror? For suspense....where was the suspense. And for character development, since you don't care whether any of the actors live or die, you don't care about any of their developments. Long story short, what a bad bad bad bad movie. The production could have spent the money spent on this film and feed a small village in Africa for a month. Money well spent down the toilet. Rest in Peace
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