I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

SIFF: Vern attends the world premiere of Stuart Gordon’s KING OF THE ANTS and goes nuts for it!

Hey folks, Harry here… Stuart Gordon is one of those directors that I just keep waiting on to break a film into orbit. When you look at what he’s done on no money, and just how incredibly entertaining his movies consistently are. From RE-ANIMATOR to SPACE TRUCKERS to THE WONDERFUL ICE CREAM SUIT to DAGON… Here’s a guy making low-budget indies that I demand to own on DVD – even if it means seeking them out in other regions. On top of that, he’s just a great guy. Humble, friendly and eager to tell you about all of his stories and dreams. So it is with great glee that I read Vern’s review of KING OF THE ANTS… This is a brutal crime film that Stuart has had his eye on for a while now, and from Vern’s review… It’ll be one of those movies we seek out all year long, and I’m instantly going to contact Stuart about doing a screening here in Austin with the Drafthouse! Here’s VERN –

Boys –

No really guys, I really did it this time. A 100% genuine scoop. This time it really truly is not a movie you guys have reviewed the shit out of. You’ve never even seen it because this was the world premiere. But I’m positive you’ll be covering this movie alot as soon as people start seeing it. Stuart Gordon has made his best movie in years, in my opinion his best ever. It is definitely one that stands out from the others because there’s no supernatural business or science fiction or HP Lovecraft references. What it is is a very dark (in tone, not in lighting) neo-noir adapted by brit Writer Charlie Higson from his own novel, about a regular dude in his mid ’20s who’s not sure what he wants to do with his life. And then somebody offers him $13,000 to kill an innocent man. So he figures, you know, why not?

King of the AntsWell I’ve already given away too much and this really is a movie that will be better if you go in knowing absolutely nothing, so just take my word for it, wait for this sucker to find a distributor and go watch it. This is going to really impress alot of people and get a cult following and what not, I give it my personal Vern Guarantee. the end.

Seriously that is the end of the review

–Vern

Oh, so some of you are sticking around I guess.

Great. So I gotta actually CONVINCE you fuckers. Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt there. I preciate it.

Well like I said this is about a regular dude named Sean. He’s just like alot of you newsies out there reading this. He doesn’t look like a movie star or a tough guy at all, but he seems like a nice guy. He doesn’t even have a car, he just rides a mountain bike around. He doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life, he just goes from job to job and at the start of the picture he’s got a job housepainting. An electrician shows up at the house and it’s George Wendt, the dude from tv. (But don’t worry, trust me.) When they’re done working they sit down for a beer, talk about their jobs and aspirations and George takes Sean’s number in case some job turns up.

Of course a job does turn up, it’s for Daniel (I was in VAMPIRES and HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET so don’t give me that Baldwin shit) Baldwin and the job is following a guy, taking pictures and what not. The guy is played by Ron Livingston of OFFICE SPACE but I believe he was uncredited so forget I said that. He seems to be a whistleblower of some kind, it’s never quite clear what. Sean doesn’t seem to worry about the morality of it too much. It’s just a job.

This is a movie though, a noir movie, so one thing leads to another, next thing you know Sean ends up in a car late at night with Daniel Baldwin who’s all disheveled and sweaty, finishing off a bottle of whiskey and telling a story about the time he had to kill a small dog in order to screw an underage girl. Which of course he is telling as sort of a proverb in order to broach the topic of “hey man, how much would I have to pay you to kill this dude you’ve been following.” In a very well acted, uncomfortable conversation they settle on $13,000 (“my lucky number”) and Sean is headed down a career path he may not have considered while browsing the classifieds.

The guy that introduced the movie used the word “brutal” a couple times, and I just assumed he was exaggerating. People always make a big deal about violence or gore in a movie, but if you’ve seen a certain amount (as all of you have) you get kind of desensitized. So what, a guy gets his head chopped off and stuffed up his ass, big deal. Actually maybe that would be kind of a good scene. But you know what I mean. A movie can be filled with blood and dismemberment and shootings and still just be kind of silly and not at all shocking. This is not one of those movies though.

Sean is an everyman and he seems like a nice enough guy, so you sort of put yourself in his shoes. And then you walk into that house and you find yourself beating poor uncredited OFFICE SPACE man to death with various blunt objects and of course it takes longer than you might’ve hoped. And you wonder if whatever you’re gonna buy with $13,000 is really gonna be worth knowing that you just did that.

That’s only the ‘b’ in brutal though and just wait til you get to the ‘u’ and the ‘t’. And oh shit I almost forgot about the ‘a.’ It turns out that Sean’s new employers don’t really plan to pay him the money. They just want him to leave town, and he refuses. So once again one thing leads to another but this time what it leads to is being locked in a shed out in the middle of the desert for days being beaten with a golf club. This is a long and painful section of the movie and it’s one of those scenes of violence that really makes you feel the pain. And I gotta say that yeah, brutal was the right word for it. I saw a couple people walk out, and I haven’t seen so much cringing and covering of the eyes since that documentary JACKASS. More than anything it is reminiscent of the notorious Marvin Nash gets his ear cut off scene in RESERVOIR DOGS. But Sean lasts for days and he comes out of there beaten so bad he looks like the elephant man. He’s wearing nothing but his shitty drawers and a layer of dried blood and puke. He’s like a crazed animal. You’re not sure if he even remembers how to talk. He’s barely recognizable as the regular dude who painted the house.

And then things get even more uncomfortable when he escapes back to civilization and decides maybe it would be a good idea to meet the good lookin gal that was married to the innocent man he killed. You know, maybe strike up a close friendship with her, move in, play with her cute daughter, etc. I mean, they don’t know he was the one who brutally murdered Ron Livingston in their kitchen, do they? So what’s the big deal?

Come on Sean, what the fuck man you’ve crossed the line, in my opinion. Just my 2 cents.

KING OF THE ANTS really takes you on a journey from accepting this regular guy to going into the heart of darkness (or whatever you want to call killing and mutilating George Wendt) and coming out someone entirely different. I know Mr. Gordon’s last picture DAGON was pretty well liked but for me it didn’t really work because I just didn’t like the lead actors that much. Sure there were some great scenes and creepy ass fishpeople, but the main actors just didn’t have that type of presence that you want in a horror movie. I just thought of them as actors and not people. I couldn’t really put myself in their shoes.

KING OF THE ANTS doesn’t have that problem at all because this guy Chris McKenna who plays Sean is just perfect. He’s kind of a goofy smiley guy who looks a little like Steve-O (you know, from that documentary) without the tattoos and muscles. And you just go along with him. All of his tormentors/victims are real good too, especially the two thugs played by Vernon Wells and I think the other is named Lionel Mark Smith. Baldwin is also very good as the boss and even George Wendt is scary in this movie. I mean at one point he sits on this kid. To be frankly honest I never really thought about it before but this movie made me realize I actually wouldn’t want to fuck with George Wendt. So you know, it’s one of those movies that really makes you think.

(By the way George Wendt apparently showed Gordon the book and is a producer on the movie.)

It’s nice because you can tell it’s a Stuart Gordon picture but not at all in a “oh, it’s that same old crap” kind of way. I think this brutality I keep talking about is shocking in the same way that REANIMATOR was when it first came out. There’s even at least one innovative new idea for disgusting gore, and yes it happens to George Wendt.

Unless you read this review and found out exactly what was gonna happen, you wouldn’t really know where the story was going. It’s a good example of a neo-noir because it takes all those standard noir story elements and turns it into a movie that feels completely new and beyond anything else in the genre.

I won’t speak for every single individual reading this but Harry, I give you my personal guarantee that you are gonna like this movie. I forget what time of year you do your Buttapalooza or whatever but if you are able to get this movie at one of those it will be perfect. You’re gonna want to see this one as soon as possible, especially since there’s no fuckin way the version we saw here tonight is gonna get an R-rating. I predict that you will love it and champion it and etc. You will take it under your wing and nurse it like an injured baby bird. But don’t let the mama bird find out it was touched by humans or she will kill it. I don’t know what the shit that means I’m not good with analogies I guess.

Anyway boys SIFF ends this weekend and that’s my last movie so here’s my score card presented in chronological type order.

THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED: Incredible inside perspective of a military coup. I hope it wins best documentary.

CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS: The best documentary I’ve seen that involves kiddy porn. Seriously though this is a real fascinating one from the co-writer of the Felicity theme song.

EVER SINCE THE WORLD ENDED: Not too bad post-apocalyptic mockumentary. Some people will like it. Sorry I got the name wrong before.

BUBBA HO TEP: Really fun Elvis/JFK/mummy movie, one of Bruce Campbell’s best performances by far.

CABIN FEVER: Harry didn’t run my review but believe the nerd hype, this is an instant classic of low budget horror.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR: Great performances, sweet little story, best scene ever about people going to see Revenge of the Nerds.

DEMONLOVER: Pretty good corporate espionage thriller except for that murky last 20-30 minutes

800 BULLETS: Nice little children’s fantasy if you cover their eyes for the naked whores and the shootings

KING OF THE ANTS: Brutal and effective neo-noir, I guarantee it will catch on big

[NOTE FROM THE YEAR 2010: It is possible that some of the predictions in this review did not exactly come 100% true in my opinion.]

Well I wasn’t one of those passholder maniacs so I didn’t see as many as some people, but this is the most I’ve ever seen in one film festival. And I picked em good – I only had two movies I gave lower than a 4 out of 5 on the ballots. It’s been fun boys. Sad to see it ending especially since I won’t have much to write about for the ain’t it cool news. But you know where to find me.

Also if other seattleites are sad about SIFF ending, I saw on the Seattle Center reader board that the Seattle International Juggling Festival is also coming up. So I guess that would be pretty exciting if you, you know, are into juggling. In my opinion. just a tip for everybody there.

Vern

p.s. the attached file is photographical evidence that I was really at the world premiere. Left to right: Stuart Gordon, Charlie Higson, producer Duffy Hecht, Vernon Wells, Chris McKenna, Daniel Baldwin. If you’re wondering why it’s blurry it’s because I’m an Artist.

kingoftheants

Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/15459

View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback

  • June 14, 2003, 6:17 a.m. CST

    Sounds interesting

    by dogfish112

  • June 14, 2003, 6:25 a.m. CST

    First

    by Buford T. Justice

    Wah-Hey! Interesting to see Charlie Higson’s involved with this. Hope the script is better than the remake of “Randall and Hopkirk” he wrote and co-produced…

  • June 14, 2003, 6:55 a.m. CST

    read the book in a Mexican hostel

    by humfredo

    I was stuck in Copper Canyon with nothing to read and found this on the shelf. Being a Brit I recognised Charlie Higson as the comic genius from the Fast Show (Black! Black!), and thought it would be a good laugh. Boy did I get that one wrong. The story was average, although I can see it more as a film than a novel, and the writing wasn’t spectacular. All I can say about it, having not seen the film, is that it could work better on screen than on paper. It is incredibly violent and sometimes, in a very very dark sense, funny.

  • June 14, 2003, 9:08 a.m. CST

    SFF sucked dead dingo

    by DeadRapedDeer

    Not only did they show that dead raped deer lacking atrocity CABIN FEVER but there were no dead raped deer in UNDEAD either. I was forced to kill Gayle Lake and eat her brains. I have posted an eyeball to Harry so that he can have a snack.

  • June 14, 2003, 9:36 a.m. CST

    First posters just love to suck on donkey balls. Big, sweaty don

    by Dog Of Mystery

    Sure, I’m retired from TalkBacks sue me. That’s VERNON MOTHERFUCKING WELLS up there, dammit! Wez from the fucking ROAD WARRIOR! Bennet from COMMANDO! Worship at his altar!!! Oh, and FUCK FIRST POSTERS. FUCK THEM UP THEIR STUPID ASSES!!!

  • June 14, 2003, 10:39 a.m. CST

    What purpose does this movie serve?

    by wilbur gray

    Does it sound like a cautionary tale or a sociopathic fantasy?Opinions?

  • June 14, 2003, 11:06 a.m. CST

    So does this have like giant ants and this is the story of the l

    by ScottGant

    I mean, this is Stuart Gordon we’re talking about here.

  • June 14, 2003, 11:49 a.m. CST

    Great review dude!

    by don_gately

    Come on back any time.

  • June 14, 2003, 1:45 p.m. CST

    movies that rule

    by bobofett…where

    Well i have to say that the SIFF is great. I drove down from vancouver twice to check out bubba-ho-tep and cabin fever. Unfortunetly for buba we didn’t have tickets so we started waiting in line around 9:30pm. We met some interesting people and finally when we managed to get a couple tickets, some new friends let us join them in the front of the line. They rule. That movie made my night. Bruce and Ozzie are great together. I can’t wait for it to get released and i hear there might be a sequel. And on tuesday me and some buds saw cabin fever. I recomend everyone to check this out. The comedic value is great for this horror film. It was up there with my favorites of the year like 28 days later, darkness, bubba and wrong turn. I really want to see undead but i dont know of any screenings for it in the near future.

  • June 14, 2003, 1:59 p.m. CST

    I want a GIANT ANTS movie! With Steven Seagal!

    by Not The Messiah

    Why the hell is this thing called King Of The Ants??

  • June 14, 2003, 2 p.m. CST

    yah i hated dagon

    by bobofett…where

    I saw it last year, i was bored. It didnt do anything for me.

  • June 14, 2003, 4:11 p.m. CST

    Biggest problem with DAGON was

    by frank cotton

    it couldn’t make up its mind whether it wanted to be straight horror (really would have rocked) or EVIL DEAD 2. i still liked it (that face-peeling was gruesome as hell), but i don’t think i’ll buy it.

  • June 14, 2003, 4:41 p.m. CST

    Lovecraft is basically unfilmable

    by ScottGant

    I saw Dagon, as much as people claim this to be Lovecraft…it isn’t. Lovecraft is about mood, and feeling and things that you can’t even imagine without losing your mind. How for instance can you possibly show something that drives people insane from juse seeing it? What amount of rubber or latex can be piled up and moved around to make anything that your mind cannont grasp? It can’t. No film has yet to come even close to Lovecrafts written horrors. None. H.R. Giger came close with his Alien…but that’s it. Everyone thought Reanimator was great…saying that Gordon really captured Lovecraft. But this is hogwash. Reanimator had funny parts, and sexual parts. Lovecraft wasn’t funny, or sexual for that matter. Lovecraft is suppose to make you think, and just go whoa. But instead we get Gordon and the viewers that come out of the movie going “d00d…that was so |33t! Did ya see when that d00d tore that other d00ds face off? Dat was da shit!!!”. Go read Lovecraft first, then you can see for a fact that Stuart Gordon has never picked up a book in his life.

  • June 14, 2003, 5:43 p.m. CST

    DAGON was terrific.

    by Cash Bailey

    I mean, it was made for $5 million for Christ’s sake!! Considering the quality of the finished product (despite only two, count ’em TWO, dodgy CGI shots that are no worse than you’ll see in any syndicated TV show) I think it is a remarkable achievement. Stuart Gordon seems to be getting his second wind while Carpenter is drowning under his own mediocrity and ego.

  • June 14, 2003, 6:05 p.m. CST

    Lovecraft, Dagon and Fat Daniel Baldwin

    by GrandoCarIissian

    1. I’ve been reading Lovecraft for half my life, and it may be true that many Lovecraft stories are unfilmable, but I wouldn’t want them to stop trying. After all, they said the same thing about Tolkien and look what happened there. Of course it would be impossible to put the Elder Gods or other Lovecraft creatures on film the way he described, because he never did describe them much outside of basically saying they were indescribable. But with a good budget and the right designers, you could surely create something just as cool out of a Lovecraft story on film as the Balrog in FOTR. If they make Mountains of Madness, hopefully that will be our chance. It won’t be pure Lovecraft, but the LOTR movies aren’t pure Tolkien; nevertheless, they’re fantastic in their own right. The first half of Dagon does the best job of anything I’ve seen of capturing the mood and tone of Lovecraft… the 2nd half then turns into a monster-chase movie, and leaves Lovecraft behind, but I still enjoyed it for what it was. The CG creature at the end basically sucked, but everything else til then was very cool. Re-Animator, as much as I love that movie, has nothing whatsoever to do with Lovecraft other than taking the basic concept from one of his stories.

    2. Is Daniel Baldwin a fat fuck or what? He’s like Marlon Brando minus the talent and all the weird shit.

  • June 14, 2003, 7:39 p.m. CST

    King Of The Ants

    by mbaker

    That sounds like A bad science fiction movie if you ask me.

  • June 15, 2003, 7:11 a.m. CST

    More Charlie Higson films please

    by deathwish6

    I’ve read all his books and they are simply brilliant. A film of HAPPY NOW is a must. It is a menace. I urge you all to read it. A psychotic burglar enters peoples houses, while the owners are in, and friggs himself off and steals their possesions. One night he accidentaly leaves his diary in one of the houses and the man that finds it becomes obsessed with it, wanting to find the happiness that the psycho writes of. Excellent.

  • June 16, 2003, 4:07 a.m. CST

    Lest we Forget, Vernon Wells was also..

    by Ktak

    …digested by Martin Short in “Innerspace.” Just imagine the nasty-ass fart that must have generated.

    I’ve read and heard from several people that Wells is a really cool guy, totally unlike the psycho characters he plays. This movie sounds interesting enough to check out when it’s released.

  • June 16, 2003, 9:09 a.m. CST

    So is this really the same Charlie Higson from The Fast Show? Be

    by trouserpress

    And that guy is a comedy legend! I saw The Fast Show Live last year and it was one of the most hilarious nights of my life. Him and Paul Whitehouse are both pure geniuses. You can see why Johnny Depp loves them so much.

  • June 16, 2003, 10:57 a.m. CST

    I’m a big Stuart Gordon fan since Re-Animator….

    by onefettinthehand

    He always has something interesting to show us. Of all his films, I probably like From Beyond the best, but the fucker ain’t out on DVD for some reason! Anyway, I recommend Castle Freak and Space Truckers. I liked Dagon, but I kept thinking the lead should have been Jeffrey Combs. That would have been so much cooler. But it was very cool none the less. This story sounds awesome and I can’t wait to see it. I only hope that the unrated version will be released on DVD.

  • June 16, 2003, 6:56 p.m. CST

    Sociopathic Fantasy

    by vinylsaurus

    Yep, pretty much a noir-geek movie but very well done — the main character definitely crosses the line but you sympathize with him because the men who put him up to it are so much worse. Gordon did manage to stick a latex monster in there too (dream sequence). I never thought George Wendt could be scary but he definitely gets into psycho John Goodman territory. Much better flick than DAGON, which I had high hopes for but let me down — bad acting, too-long chase scenes, and too many “huh?” moments like, SPOILER:

    the lead’s girlfriend is impregnated by Dagon who then decides to chomp her off at the arms? Brilliant plan, oh elder one (and you’re a crappy CGI effect besides).

    I’m a Lovecraft fan and I really like RE-ANIMATOR but mostly because of the humor and over-the-top gore. DAGON straddles the fence too much to be successful as an adaptation or a fun horror flick in its own right.

  • June 16, 2003, 11:54 p.m. CST

    Gordon and Lovecraft

    by johnny the boy

    I was in 6th grade when RE ANIMATOR was released. I recall watching SNEAK PREVIEWS with Michael Medved and Jeffery Lyons as they reviewed it and DEATH WISH 3. As a kid I knew that DW3 would be terrible, but they mentioned George Romero’s name in conjunction with the film. They then mentioned H.P. Lovecraft who I knew from NIGHT GALLERY, a mailbox in a horror spoof in MAD magazine and late horror shows. I saw it when it was released on video the next year, and it blew my 6th grade mind. My best friend, my older brother and I sat with jaws agape at 2 in the morning as Gordon continued to go further and further.

    Then, FROM BEYOND came out and I was hooked on Gordon and, so I thought at the time, Lovecraft.

    Then, I read Lovecraft and I was deeply disappointed. Racist and Anti-Semitic are to descriptorsthat spring to mind. I will not deny that he had some interesting and, yes, haunting ideas, but his writing does not truly follow through. Yes, the elder gods are n interesting conceit, but too often the writing is just plan weak. The horrible ideas work but the writing just doesn’t. In the case of Lovecraft ,as with Stephen King, the emperor is stark naked.

    Gordon is not the greatest director in the world, but he is consistently interesting. I am very interested in this new film. I think it sounds like an intersting change of pace.

    SELAH.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
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