"This certainly wasn't what I expected from a stuart gordon film but it worked nonetheless. Gone are the sci-fi trimmings of re-animator, dagon etc..and in its place is somewhat of a character study. Our subject is sean crowly, who we find painting houses. There he meets Duke (played by the ever rotund George Wendt but in a sinister turn). Its an ill fated meeting as it sets in motion a turn of events from which there is no escape. Before we know it, crowly has killed a man for money, only the people who hired him say they didn't really want him to kill the guy. They don't pay. Crowly's guilt sets in when he realizes the guy he killed was a model citizen. The folks who put out the hit get nervous and decide to tenderize crowly abit. Revenge ensues.
This one was solid from the top down. The acting was good. Once george wendt went from good duke to bad duke, there was no hint of his norm character from cheers to be found. The guy who played crowly was good to. I haven't seen him anywhere before but the kid has a future. Theres one of the baldwin brothers in this one too, the older fatter one from john carpenter's vampires. Maybe he can get out from the shadows of his brothers now. He brings his corrupt real estate developer character to life. Direction is good.
Gore:Theres a good amount of red sauce flying around but its more about the sounds in this one. As the golf clubs are put to one guys head, the sound of the bones popping will make you cringe.
T&A: Kari wuher naked as usual. Crowly rolls around in his bed naked whilst having bad dreams."
Don't meet with thugs!
James McDonald | Southern California | 03/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ants have nothing to do with this film. Sean (Chris L. McKenna) must do a dirty deed for two bad guys, Duke (George Wendt) and Ray (Daniel Baldwin). He must spy on this family man, Eric (Ron Livingston), who works at the Los Angeles City Hall) and take photographs of him outside. Then they want Sean to kill the man. Sean did not sleep very well and doesn't really want to do this thug job. The next day, he had hoped the man wouldn't answer the door. Sean goes in and commits murder with difficulty. At night as Sean lays in bed, he constantly recalls what he did. Duke scares Sean into not giving him his money for the job. Sean was only suppose to rattle the man, not kill him. But Sean claims Ray wanted him too. Duke threatens Sean to "disappear". later they capture him and torture him for many days. he was able to escape, but had to kill to do it. His problems get deeper as he tries to destroy all evidence of his existence and crimes. Includes grissly violence, full male nudity and female nudity, sexual scenes and foul language. George Wendt also co-produced. Ron Livingston was not credited for his film appearance. DVD includes Director's Commentary with Chris L. McKenna and a featurette."
Gordon rocks. Again. First time in a while.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 11/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"King of the Ants (Stuart Gordon, 2003)
Stuart Gordon is, of course, best-known for his basement-budget adaptations of Lovecraft, but he's never confined himself solely to the horror film; witness the sci-fi action flick Fortress, or his work in the kids'-film genre (which, while not extensive, does comprise a surprising amount of his production time). Thus, King of the Ants is not as much of a surprise as it would first seem. Unlike most of his previous forays into non-horror, though, King of the Ants delivers in spades.
Sean Crawley (Chris McKenna, previously seen in the TV series Opposite Sex) is a rootless guy who's willing to do just about anything to make a buck. While painting a house one day, he meets an electrician named Duke (Cheers' George Wendt). Duke works for a guy named Ray Matthews (Daniel Baldwin). Matthews needs a guy watched. Crawley has a dumb fantasy about being a private eye. Everyone's happy, until Matthews reveals to Crawley while drunk one night that the guy he's having followed he actually wants dead. From there, things get weird.
Based on a novel by Charles Higson, King of the Ants is in most respects your standard action-revenge fare. (Had it gotten wide release, its timing would have been perfect; Blake Crouch's book Desert Places came out around the same time, and the two have a good deal in common.) Where it rises above is in its characters. Much has been made of Sean's move from being a basically likable drifter into being a basically likable killer, and it probably says more about me than about the movie that I didn't see it as being all that much a stretch (thus, my being impressed comes from different areas); if you're the kind of person who thinks such a transformation would be something to see, by all means, rent this. More surprising, to me, was the detail to be found in even the minor characters. One expects development from Ray and Duke, but in most action flicks, the other henchmen who form Ray's band of criminals would just be there as window dressing. Not so here; the other two guys on the team (capably played by Vernon Wells, the villain in Schwarzenegger vehicle Commando, and Lionel Mark Smith, recently seen in State and Main, Magnolia, and Life Among the Cannibals) are fully-fleshed minor players. One assumes they were even more fleshed out in the novel, but that the adaptation didn't jettison their characters altogether is one of the things that makes this such a fine film.
Definitely worth seeing. Not for the weak of stomach by any means, but a fine thrill-ride. *** ½"
...or how Stuart Gordon crawls under your skin....
G. Van Der Bent | Katwijk, The Netherlands | 06/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A few weeks ago I considered myself a lucky man. A big fan of director Stuart Gordon (of Re-Animator, and more recent Dagon fame.) I came across a UK DVD version of this movie. Not yet released in the States I get to tell you how good a movie this is.For American (and these days also more and more overseas) audiences groomed on Hollywood dung like Van Helsing and Harry Potter this is going to be a hard movie. For underground and indie moviebuffs this is...well one helluva treat!In short, the story is based on a novel by British writer Charlie Higson (most famous for writing tv series like the revamped Randall and Hopkirk) and follows a down on his luck house painter who sees himself being recruited as a hitman. Sounds improbable? Trust me,it all works out onscreen. What follows is a very violent, at times almost surrealistic movie. And like with his previous films, Gordon had me loving every minute of it (I even liked his Fortress).
There are some fine performances here, by the likes of George 'Norm' Wendt as utter scumbag Duke and the least known Baldwin brother as the main baddie. I also liked Aussie genre fave Vernon Wells (from Mad Max II and he played Bennet in Schwarzenegger's Commando) as a baddie who softens up against his captive. You'll be suprised about what fate Gordon has in store for him...but than again this isn't that Hollywood blockbuster, and I refuse to go into spoiler territory.
The revelation here however is Chris McKenna. As Sean Crawley he is a good solid actor with plenty of screen persona and wit. I loved him and hope he has a long career ahead of him. His line where Duke compares him to: "James f....ing Bond" and he just answers: 'No, Sean f....ing Crawley!' is a classic and had me gloating in my seat.I can't rave about this movie enough. I recommend it to everybody who knows how to find it. Personally I can't help but compare it to a Tarantino flick. I saw this about the same time as everybody was hyping the video release of Kill Bill vol 1. This is so much more brutal and yes SUPERIOR than that(and by the way Gordon is so much better at portraying onscreen eroticism and perversities than Tarantino will ever be)! Rent, buy or steal it (if need to)!!! KING OF THE ANTS rules my hill!"
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 07/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I came into Stuart Gordon's "King of the Ants" expecting some weird blend of science fiction and horror. Just look at the title. Doesn't that scream sci-fi/horror? Considering Gordon's other features almost always reside deep in the well of blood soaked cinema, one could safely assume this picture would cover familiar ground. Here's a guy who has made films like "Re-Animator," "Castle Freak," a remake of "The Pit and the Pendulum," the H.P. Lovecraft adaptations "Dagon" and "From Beyond," and the Christopher Lambert sci-fi vehicle "Fortress." I think it's safe to assume "King of the Ants" should fall within these parameters, right? Boy, was I wrong! The title "King of the Ants" couldn't be more misleading in describing the themes this movie actually covers. There is no king, as far as I can tell. There are no ants, although they would be quite difficult to see unless they were mutant ants that stood fifty feet tall. Instead, Gordon gives us a film adapted from a book by Charlie Higson, a film that deals with a bad deal gone wrong and the subsequent bloody revenge wreaked upon the principals by an unassuming housepainter who was literally in the wrong place at the wrong time. Well, at least Gordon's penchant for blood soaked cinema remains firm with this project.
Sean Crawley (Chris McKenna) is your average young guy just trying to get by as a housepainter when opportunity comes knocking one day in the form of the portly Duke (George Wendt). The two men strike up a friendly rapport while working on a house, and Duke promptly invites his new friend to meet a most important individual. This person is a powerful construction contractor named Ray Mathews (Daniel Baldwin), a beefy thug with a love of golf and a hatred for a certain accountant down at city hall called Eric Gatley (Ron Livingstone). Mathews offers our boy Sean a specific sum of money if he'll simply follow Gatley around town and report back on his movements. It seems that Ray's involved in several shady schemes, schemes meaning kickbacks on projects, and Eric is nosing around in the hope of saving the city some money by sending Mathews to the slammer. Crawley, always on the lookout for a few extra bucks, sees no harm in tailing a suburbanite. He heads over to Gatley's home to start his mission, and can't help but notice that the accountant has an incredibly gorgeous wife. Sean spends some time doing the job and reports back to Mathews.
Then something ominous happens. Ray and Sean have a heart to heart while Mathews liberally gulps firewater. The contractor seems to indicate that something "bad" should happen to Eric Gatley, and that if something "bad" happens, a big payoff might be in the cards for whoever carries out the dirty deed. At least this is how Crawley interprets the conversation. The next day he follows Gatley home and murders the guy in a particularly brutal, bloody manner. Then he turns up seeking payment from Mathews, but Ray expresses anger at what happened. He claims that the authorities are all over him because they think he had Gatley bumped off. Not only does he refuse to hand over the cash, he tells Crawley to get lost. Sean's not the sort of chap to take no for an answer, and his persistent efforts to get what's owed him results in a kidnapping and a series of extraordinarily brutal tortures inflicted upon him by Mathews, Duke, and a few other stooges. Much to their everlasting detriment, Ray and company fail to kill their former flunky. Sean escapes and, with the help of the most unlikeliest of allies, returns to full health with the goal of seeking revenge on his tormentors. The end.
I left a bunch of particulars out in order not to spoil the film, but "King of the Ants" is really as simple as the above summary. Wronged man seeks revenge. That's it in a nutshell. In the hands of the capable Stuart Gordon, however, the movie manages to entertain thanks to a number of exploitative factors. First is the presence of Kari Wuhrer, the brunette B movie actress who plays Eric Gatley's wife Susan here. Through the most unusual of circumstances, she ends up offering help to her husband's murderer. Her role also requires her to do some acrobatics in her birthday suit that this viewer greatly appreciated. Second, Gordon doesn't shy away from violence. We've got a golf club repeatedly hitting a head, pools of blood, a refrigerator used as a murder weapon, and a gory showdown that results in all sorts of ghastly indecencies. "King of the Ants" contains more than enough bloodshed to satiate the avid gorehound. Third, and finally, Gordon isn't above throwing in a few scenes of weirdness just to keep the audience off balance. Check out that hallucination Crawley experiences during his kidnapping. What the heck was that thing all about? Who knows, but it was entertaining and appropriately kooky.
"King of the Ants" is sort of in a category all by itself. It doesn't really fit into the field of horror, and it's not entirely at home in the standard revenge flick genre, either. If you like horror and you like revenge shoot 'em ups, however, you'll probably enjoy Gordon's movie. I know I did; I would definitely watch this one again. As for the DVD version of the film, extras abound. We get a trailer, a commentary track with Gordon, Wendt, and McKenna, and a lengthy behind the scenes feature containing interviews with many of the principal players. This short documentary is interesting in a number of ways, such as learning that it was George Wendt who played a big role in bringing this movie to fruition. Give "King of the Ants" a go if you get a chance. It's worth watching. "