King of the Ants (2003)
By: Michael Helms on June 16, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Asylum (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0, Spanish DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 103 minutes
The Movie
Director: Stuart Gordon
Starring: Chris L. McKenna, Kari Wuhrer, George Wendt, Vernon Wells, Lionel Mark Smith, Timm Sharp, Daniel Baldwin
Screenplay: Charles Higson based on his novel
Music: Bobby Johnston
Country: USA
Stuart Gordon returns with a violent suburban nightmare of a movie that's more in line with the work of fellow filmmaker out of Chicago, John McNaughton (think the highly underrated Normal Life) or early Wes Craven rather than the crazed Lovecraftian madness we've come to know and love. In fact, you could describe King Of The Ants as Last House On The Left meets the Sopranos, if the gangsters were played by the Three Stooges. Gordon made King of the Ants with the fat guy on the end of the bar from Cheers (George Wendt) finally seeing the project to fruition after many years of development hell.

King of the Ants revolves around the character of Sean, an average none too smart, not too successful worker who's just trying to get ahead and make it as a house painter. On one job site he encounters George Wendt as Duke, an electrician who's first line of dialogue is, "The wiring in this house is fucked". Duke recruits Sean for local developer and crime impresario Daniel Baldwin who's prepared to stop at nothing to get what he wants. Sean is soon given work as a spy for Baldwin which he gets into with much dumb enthusiasm. After some pressure from the Boss, Sean finds himself in a situation that goes wildly astray when he bashes the object of his surveillance and drops a refrigerator on his head in order to stop him from moving. Sean is physically ill from the experience but dutifully attends the meeting with Duke early the next day only to be put in a headlock and disowned by Duke without the promised pay day. Duke calls him an ant, tells him to get out of town, and leaves Sean to his own devices. Sean seeks advice from his buddy who works in a lost dog's home who also tells him to get out town. Meanwhile the golf-loving Baldwin decides they want to erase Sean's memory by their own methods and sends the boys out to abduct him. The thugs who include expatriate Vernon Wells as the group conscience shift Sean to Baldwin's desert hideout where they begin to administer their memory removal programme that involves wacking Sean in the head with a golf club on a daily basis. During his internment Sean begins to seriously hallucinate all of which revolves around his desire for his victim's wife, the beautiful Kari Wuhrer. Sean sees Wuhrer as a sex goddess, a mutant, and a transsexual before he makes good an escape after biting a huge chunk out of Duke's neck and hooking up with his friend who'd decided to come to his rescue. Sean disgusts his friend with his new assertive personality and gets kicked out of the car. Sean ends up at the homeless mission run by Wuhrer and soon inveigles his way into her life and bed, or rather couch. Things again go haywire for Sean when he accidentally lets his precious file that was devoted to her husband into Wuhrer's hands. Wuhrer leaves unexpected fluid on Sean's face before accidentally knocking herself out during a fight. Sean then becomes a vicious and vindictive revenge machine, something that was going to happen whether or not he made contact with Wuhrer. Sean then engages in some methodical torture and property damage which leaves no doubt who has now learned to be in charge and that an even more powerful sequel should be on the horizon.
Shot mainly in daylight by Gordon's regular DOP Mac Ahlberg, the transfer presents an oversaturated red hue that appears on too many faces in too many shots to go unnoticed. Otherwise this film looks great, seamlessly incorporating effects shots into the highly naturalistic suburban settings.
Could've used a surround mix for greater impact especially in the area of sound effects but the stereo sound still does the job.
Extra Features
Less than five minute making of documentary, Director/actor commentary & trailer.
The Verdict
A great piece from Stuart Gordon who's apparently found renewed enthusiasm for filmmaking especially in the area of suburban violence by paying particular attention to it's most horrific elements. Highly recommended.
Movie Score
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