King of the Ants
king of the ants | stuart gordon | charlie higson | chris mckenna | kari wuhrer | george wendt | kidnap | torture | based on | novel | crime | drama | thriller | united states | daniel baldwin | ron livingston | vernon wells | lionel mark smith | timm sharp | carissa kosta
Film: King of the Ants
Director: Stuart Gordon
Writer: Charlie Higson
Starring: Chris McKenna, Kari Wuhrer and George Wendt
This film was one that I checked out due to my sister recommending it. I didn’t realize until after I viewed it that Stuart Gordon was the director. During my viewing, I was conflicted if this film was horror or not. Now it definitely is a darker neo-noir film. I ultimately decided to write this review due to the fact that it does go pretty graphic and there are some interesting ideas in it. The official synopsis is a young drifter discovers his true calling when he’s hired by a mobster to stalk and kill a prominent accountant, and then decides to seek revenge when the stingy thugs try to kill him rather than pay.
Now we start off in a house where Sean Crawley (Chris McKenna) is painting the wall. He is joined by Duke Wayne (George Wendt), who is an electrician. Duke makes a comment that Sean isn’t great at painting, but still takes his number, thinking he might have some work for him. He then calls him and has him join him at a local golf course. It is there he introduces him to Ray Mathews (Daniel Baldwin). Ray is the owner of a construction business and he has a rather unmoral task for Sean. He is to follow a guy around and let Ray know if he does anything suspicious.
The man is Eric Gatley (Ron Livingston). He actually works for the prosecutor’s office. It is during his time of monitoring him that Sean sees his wife, Susan (Kari Wuhrer). Sean falls for her and fantasize about being with her. She notices him, but nothing comes of it at this time. Sean does see Eric speaking with a local reporter.
When he tells Ray this, it is decided that Sean will kill him. The price is $13,000. It takes Sean some time to work up the nerve, but he kills Eric in his own home. The death is pretty violent. Before he leaves, he takes a file from Eric’s briefcase.
The problem is that when Sean tries to reach out to Duke, he can’t get in touch with him. Sean finally does and he’s told to leave town. They aren’t going to pay him; because there’s no way that he can prove the money is owed. That’s when Sean gives the file to his friend, George (Timm Sharp) to hold on to. He then reveals to Duke that he has the file and he is then taken to a house in the middle of nowhere. He is then beaten senseless.
When he finally gets away, he seeks out the aid of Susan. He has to decide if he wants to get his revenge or try to live a normal life. The problem though, the decision might not be entirely up to him.
As I alluded to earlier, I wasn’t entirely sure if I was going to do a review on this film. There’s a good portion of this film that really isn’t horror, but the reason I did decide to do this is for a couple of reasons. The first is the depravity of Sean. He does start off as a normal guy, who really isn’t good at anything and that’s the reason that he is asked to do this job. They want him to get caught, but they don’t want him to rat on them. He proves to be much better at the killing aspect than he realizes. I do think part of this is that he is pushed to the edge. We never know what we are capable of until we are forced to be.
Going from there, the film’s title is actually very interesting to me. Part of it is going to the zoo scene with Duke and Sean. Duke wants to a play a game where they find animals they look like. They go into the insect house and Duke states he’s a like an ant. The reason being for this is that Sean is mindless, does what he is told and is a good worker. This comes full circle though with how this film ends, where Sean is much more than they realized. I really liked this concept that if Sean is an ant, then he’s the king of them and how it plays out.
There is also an aspect in this film where Sean is driven mad. Ray doesn’t want to kill Sean as that looks suspicious. He instead has the idea to cause trauma to the head of Sean to give him brain damage where he is unable to rat on them. This produces some horrific dreams for Sean and it also drives him mad as well. This is something that is pretty horror in my opinion.
The pacing of the film did have some issues for me. I think this film is a little bit long for its own good. I’m wondering how much of that is the film is based on a novel and the writer, Charles Higson, penned the screenplay. I just feel that the film lingers on things for too long and it drags. I feel if some of that was cut to make it tighter, it would have helped the tension. I still like how the film plays out and ends though.
The cast of this film actually kind of blew me away as well. McKenna is pretty solid as the lead. I believe he is legit this character. His look and how he acts is fitting. I was quite impressed with the section where he is driven mad, he played that very well. Seeing the change in his character was solid in my opinion. Wuhrer was gorgeous in this film. I remember seeking out many of her films in college and I think she is talented in these lower budgeted films. We also see her nude, which is never a bad thing. I liked the role that Wendt played, I wasn’t expecting him. Baldwin is kind of funny to see, I also thought he was solid. Shout-out to the cameo by Livingston, I’m just curious as to why he went uncredited. The rest of the cast rounded out the film for what they needed as well.
Something else that really made the film horrific was the effects. They did go practical, which I was a big fan of. I do think this was something that director Gordon probably pushed as he was known for this with his films in the past. The film is pretty gory and brutal for a borderline horror film and I thought it was good. The nightmare scenes were also solid and I could see why he was losing his mind. It is interesting though, because at first the dreams are helping him cope. They change as the punishment continues to get worse though. The film did have some issues with how it was shot, but not enough to ruin it.
The last thing I wanted to touch on was the score of the film. Something about the theme song for the film I really liked. It’s been sticking with me and I almost want to see if I can get it on a playlist when I’m writing. The rest of the score was fitting for what they needed, but it didn’t really stand out.
Now with that said, many will probably not find this to be horror. I’ll be the first to admit that I think it is adjunct and enough for me to write a review. I thought the concept of the film brings up the interesting debate of nature versus nurture when it comes to doing things like this. For this, it definitely is nature with just a little bit of pushing. I thought the acting was solid to bring this to life, but I did have some issues with the pacing. The film runs a bit long. The effects were good and the theme song was as well. The rest of the score worked for what was needed. Now I personally would recommend this film if you like crime dramas or neo-noir films. It isn’t the greatest, but I did find this to be slightly above average.
My Rating: 7 out of 10