March 18, 2019 Dead Ant (Movie Review)
Doing peyote in the desert didn’t end well in 1991’s The Doors (or in that episode of Family Guy), but the Horror-Comedy Dead Ant gives it another go with some very different results. The Glam Rock-themed good times arrived to theaters and On Demand in January, but recently arrived to Blu-ray and DVD on March 5, 2019, all thanks to Cinedigm.
Rock-n-Roll died when bands stopped wearing makeup, and no one respects a power ballad anymore. Alas, the once-great Sonic Grave, known for their hit single “Don’t Close Your Eyes” (Kix who?), are poised for a major comeback. Vocalist and Bret Michaels look-alike Merrick (Jake Busey: Enemy of the State 1998, The Predator 2018), spandex-adorned Guitarist Pager (Rhys Coiro: 24 series, Entourage series), Shire-born Bassist Art (Sean Astin: The Goonies 1985, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001), and Wayne’s World-haired Drummer Stevie (Leisha Hailey: The L Word series, Fertile Ground 2011) are headed to Coachella (or not!) to begin their rebirth as a band. Schwing!
First, they need to find their inspiration. With the help of some peyote purchased from Bigfoot (Michael Horse: Twin Peaks series, Passenger 57 1992) and Firecracker (Danny Woodburn: Jingle All the Way 1996, Mirror Mirror 2012), the quartet — under the supervision of manager Danny Blue (Tom Arnold: True Lies 1994, Sons of Anarchy series) and accompanied by Merrick’s blonde honey (Cameron Richardson: Open Water 2: Adrift 2006, Alvin and the Chipmunks 2007) — will take a band “trip” through the desert. On a spiritual quest to write a new song and revamp their career, the group, who have failed to heed multiple warnings about respecting nature, will soon have to crash down from their high when a colony of monstrous ants begin to attack. Can a once-great Glam band defeat a colony of ginormous insects, survive the desert, and still get to their show on time?
Clocking in at 87 minutes, Dead Ant was directed by Ron Carlson (Tom Cool 2009, All American Christmas Carol 2013), and was written by Carlson with Hank Braxtan (Chemical Peel 2014, Snake Outta Compton 2018) and Dan Sinclair (Sports Jobs with Junior Seau series, Chemical Peel 2014). The film also features the acting talents of Sydney Sweeney (Everything Sucks! series, The Handmaid’s Tale series), Joi Liaye (The Fosters series, Legacies series), and Skittles the bunny.
Alcohol and drugs, spray tans, side boob, girls in bikinis, the music of Kix, romancing a bunny, and ginormous ants, OH MY! The Horror-Comedy Dead Ant packs a lot into its succinct runtime, and it’s definitely a wild ride. Fair warning: with its often off-color humor, this is not a film for the easily offended. Simply put: if the thought of a chart-topping song entitled “Side Boob” makes you squirm, then this is not the movie for you! If you have a good sense of humor, you’re in luck and you are likely to thrill at the good time that is Dead Ant! (And yes, there is a Pink Panther reference in there somewhere.)
It’s true: Dead Ant goes balls to the wall on fun. While it is clearly not the intention of the film to win awards for its VFX, CGI, and animatronic ants, they are certainly not laughable, either. Well-done but with some kinks, sure, these ants are ferocious man-killers, the size of small buildings. If you get 1954’s Them! vibes, well, that appears to be the point here. With several Jurassic Park (1993) references tossed into the mix — along with one truly well-placed The Lord of the Rings joke — you’ve got a film that goes big on comedic parody, hair, and spandex in the name of Rock-n-Roll!
Aside from its wonderfully unique screenplay, let’s be honest, much of the film’s success is due to its exceptional cast. Top billing goes to both Arnold and Busey for their performances, which feed off one another in a perfectly synchronized, comedic dance. Arnold, as the frustrated but overly dedicated Danny Blue (no relation), dons a Members Only jacket and aviator shades to lead his band through the desert to their career-altering gig. He’s snarky and sometimes annoying, flippant with his loyalties, and very down on bass players, but all of this amounts to a character that is a ridiculous caricature of a band’s manager.
As the overly spray-tanned Merrick, Busey does an exceptional job of portraying the blonde-maned lead singer — black guy-liner and all. When he stares wide-eyed off into space, there’s something amusing embedded in there, ditto when he hobbles on one leg to clutch his microphone in one final, triumphant moment of Rock. Meanwhile, poor Coiro, as guitarist Pager, is made to spend the entire film running around in striped spandex pants. While his on-screen performance is fun as the horniest member of the band, it’s his off-screen work that bears noting: he provides the lead vocals for all of the Sonic Grave tracks/covers on the soundtrack. So, when you see Busey belting out Kix’s “Blow My Fuse” in one show-stopping scene, well, that’s Coiro singing. Move over Steve Whiteman!
Astin — in a “Sucks To Suck” baseball cap that does not even fit over his massive wig — delivers a great line about the Shire, and gives a fun performance as the band’s under-appreciated bassist and the first of the gang to die. He is, as always, fully likable. Hailey, who is reminiscent of Dana Carvey’s Garth character, is a fiercely fun female drummer who takes no crap from the boys. While her character doesn’t deliver much by way of comedy, Hailey certainly involves herself in the action and gives a stellar performance throughout. Additionally, both Horse and Woodburn go all-out with their comedic performances, serving as perfect reminders to respect nature while dishing out some perfectly-paired hijinx.
Dead Ant takes a genre of music, much beloved by many, and uses it to set the mood for an enjoyable Horror-Comedy romp through the desert. It’s title, screenplay and original song “Side Boob” are all wonderfully witty, and its cast is truly exceptional in their diverse roles. While the film is certainly not going to single-handedly see Glam Rock taking over next year’s Coachella, this is nothin’ but a good time! Get ready to blow your fuse, Cryptic Rock give Dead Ant 4 of 5 stars.