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 -
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?
Well 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
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
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.
geocities, represent: The Man-God you all worship, Outlaw 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.