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Bad Movies

Bad Movie of the Week: Empire of the Ants

Welcome to the Bad Movie of the Week. [See the Bad Movie Archive.] For this installment, we bring you a 1977 sci-fi/horror film based on a 1905 short story by H. G. Wells:

Empire of the Ants (1977)

Empire of the Ants

Plot: This film has two very distinct parts. The first part is about a collection of vapid strangers in 70’s clothes who crowd onto a too-small boat to visit a prospective real estate development on a bit of deserted Florida land. Surprise! the area is contaminated with radioactive waste and has now been overrun by giant ants (because that’s what radioactive waste does to ants, law of conservation of mass be damned). After about half an hour of every character trying to sleep with every other character, this movie is dominated by a lot of running through forests and screaming, close-up photography of ants, and character deaths involving incredibly fake props. At this point, the movie is shooting for a score of 5 at best.

The second part begins abruptly when the main characters (including crotchety guy, suave love interest guy, hot blonde lady, and Joan Collins) escape the wetland. To their relief, they arrive in a town, but their suspicions are aroused by the strange behavior of the townspeople and the fact that all the telephone lines are dead. Events lead them to the sugar refinery outside of town, where they discover the town’s horrible secret.

Joan Collins in Empire of the Ants

Best quote: [Narrator] “The queen ant releases a pheromone that causes an obligatory response. Do you hear me? Obligatory.”

Most implausible moment: Fine, so I’ll accept that radioactive waste can cause ants to grow to 500 times their normal size (or 50 times, or 5000, scale is not very constant in this film). But I can’t accept that clothes can alternate between wet and dry from one camera angle to the next. C’mon! Let’s have some realism here!

‘Gratuitous Hotness’ bonus: 0 (out of 1 possible). Empire of the Ants completely fails to capitalize on the possibilities inherent in the premise… hardly anyone’s clothes get ripped off at all.

‘Gratuitous Violence’ bonus: ½ (out of 1 possible). I’m willing to give some points for effort. Not that many, though.

Final score: 4 (6 is worst). The second half of the movie rescues it from a 5 or worse. It’s still badly done visually, but at least the story begins to get interesting. Still, it’s only a loose, low-budget adaption of Wells’ short story, and it suffers for it.

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