Campy horror comedy is full of gore, drugs, swearing.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dead Ant is a midnight movie-style horror comedy with a retro feel. There's lots of gory but unrealistic violence -- blood, severed limbs, general carnage -- as well as nudity (including in the opening sequence), references to and quick glimpses of sex (not graphic), constant strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and more), and drug use (the premise revolves around the use of the hallucinogen peyote). The intended audience is clearly fans of B movie horror films who want to laugh at the camp and not take it seriously. But most mainstream moviegoers will likely find little here to appreciate outside of a few jokes. Sean Astin and Tom Arnold co-star.
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What's the Story?
DEAD ANT is a campy horror comedy about Sonic Grave, an aging, has-been rock band that had a one-hit wonder in the late '80s and is desperate to make a comeback at Nochella, a Coachella-adjacent music festival in the desert. The band members -- including lead singer Merrick (Jake Busey); his groupie girlfriend, Love (Cameron Richardson); guitarist Pager (Rhys Coiro); drummer Stevie (Leisha Hailey); bassist Art (Sean Astin); and their smarmy manager, Danny (Tom Arnold) -- are en route to Nochella in an Airstream trailer when they stop at a buzzed-about fruit stand run by Bigfoot (Michael Horse), a Native American medicine man who's known to sell powerful peyote to tourists. As the band buys the peyote, Bigfoot warns them that they'll be cursed if they kill any living thing -- even an ant -- if they use the drugs while they're in a designated sacred area. Things quickly go wrong after Art kills an ant while peeing outdoors and a spilled beer drowns some more of the insects. Soon, bigger and bigger ants are emerging from the earth, ready to kill the invading humans -- including two bikini-clad 20-something friends who'd joined in the band's drug festivities.
Is It Any Good?
This movie isn't nearly campy or funny enough to become a cult classic, but it may have a little appeal for broad horror-comedy fans who can look past the low-tech CGI, gore, and nudity. Dead Ant is the sort of retro movie that Gen Xers and Boomers would have watched Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, introduce on her weekly Movie Macabre presentation. There aren't any real scares; the giant killer ants dismember and kill, but no one does much more than scream about it, and viewers aren't likely to care enough about any of the characters to feel sad if a couple of them die. If anything, at a certain point, moviegoers might hope for a Shakespearean ending in which no one survives.
Despite the movie's eye-rollingly ridiculous premise, a few ongoing jokes will elicit laughs, mostly centering around the way that rock 'n' roll has changed. Frontman Merrick muses that concerts are boring now without the pyrotechnics and the blood of sacrificed animals, and he deadpans that rock hasn't been good since bands stopped wearing eye makeup. There are other music industry jokes about the merits of the power ballad and how "commercial" fests like Coachella aren't where the action is, but rather the smaller, cheaper spin-off fests like Nochella. But mostly, there's slightly off-putting humor about Pager's ability to flirt with a bikini-wearing woman half his age and Love's sex appeal (she seems attracted to every member of the band), plus all the crass violence in which deaths barely evoke any sadness or grief. Horse (who is himself part Apache, Yaqui, and Zuni) steals his scenes as the medicine man who's willing to take the money of the clueless tourists he warns time and time again. This isn't a movie for most audiences, but those who yearn for "so-stupid-it's-funny" genre flicks may be OK with it.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence in Dead Ant. Is over-the-top, unrealistic violence easier to watch than realistic violence? Why or why not?
What does it mean for a movie to be "campy" or a "cult classic"? Can a movie strive for that status, or does it have to be bestowed upon the film once there's an existing fandom for it? Do you think this movie could garner such a status?
How are women treated in the movie? Why do you think everyone except for Stevie is shown in barely-there bikinis and short-shorts? Is nudity important to the story?
What do you think about the movie's ending? What do you wish had happened?
- In theaters: January 18, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: March 5, 2019
- Cast: Tom Arnold, Sean Astin, Leisha Hailey
- Director: Ron Carlson
- Studio: Cinedigm
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Bugs, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 23, 2023
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