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Screamfest 2017 Review: ‘Dead Ant,’ A Rock & Roll Creature Feature

Last night, I arrived at the Chinese Theater for the 2017 Screamfest Horror Film Festival. I was lucky enough to witness the world premiere for Dead Ant, written and directed by Ron Carlson (read our interview – here). Read on to find out what I thought about this amazing film and night.

Upon watching the opening scenes of Dead Ant, you can tell that this is a movie that isn’t about conveying any kind of grand message about environmentalism or the dangers of morality; this is a movie about going out into the desert with your buddies, doing a ton of peyote, and killing some goddamn giant ants. And for what it’s worth, this film accomplished all that it set out to do and had a ton of fun while doing it.

Dead Ant follows a faded-n-jaded glam rock band, Sonic Grave, as they embark on a mission to play No-Chella and reclaim their former glory. Along the way, they stop by a shop to grab some mystic peyote, and in the process, accidentally summon a swarm of angry, giant ants. The band has to survive in order to play the most epic show they’ve ever played. Will they make it to No-Chella?

As I previously mentioned in another article, what was both surprising and hilarious about Dead Ant was the amount of big names that were among the film’s cast: the band consists of Jake Busey (Starship Troopers), here doing his best Axl Rose impression to hilarious effect; Sean Astin (The Goonies) channeling his inner Michael Madsen; Rhys Coiro (Entourage) sporting a glam mullet; Leisha Hailey (The L Word) as the tough-as-nails drummer; and freakin’ Tom Arnold (True Lies, Roseanne) as the band’s manager. Holy shit, that’s a lot of amazing actors and actresses in one place! That’s not even counting Michael Horse (Twin Peaks) and Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld) as the peyote salesmen! What a cast!

You can tell throughout the movie that everyone is having the best time ever in their respective roles. There’s a couple of really great improv scenes between several characters, namely Stevie and Art (Hailey and Astin respectively), where you can feel the natural chemistry between the whole cast, creating a fun vibe over the whole project. No one ever plays their roles too straight. Everyone is over-the-top 100% of the time, and yet it never gets grating or overbearing. It’s just a lot of fun to see all of these actors and actresses play off each other.

dead ant

Apparently, the CGI on the ants took nearly a whole year to complete, mostly because they were done largely by director Ron Carlson himself. While they look a little goofy at times, they definitely had a certain charm about them, and it was hilarious and awesome to see the band fight them off throughout their travels. (I won’t spoil anything, but suffice to say, there’s a lot of severed limbs, and it’s all played up for laughs.)

Final Thoughts:

When Selma Blair proclaimed Dead Ant as the perfect opening-night movie for Screamfest, she wasn’t kidding. It has everything a good B-movie should have: loads of surprise casting choices, a vibe that never takes itself too seriously, and a premise so simple it’s almost laughable. But the film always takes its horror in good fun and is a total blast to watch.

About Seth Hansen

Seth is a writer and musician living in Los Angeles. When not explaining to strangers why John Carpenter’s The Thing is the greatest horror movie ever made (trust me, it is), he’s usually playing violin or hanging out in record store clearance sections. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook!

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