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on July 6, 2004
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.
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on March 29, 2005
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.
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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
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on November 10, 2011
I stumbled upon "King of the Ants" while browsing a filmography of actor Daniel Baldwin. I was intrigued by the title and had no idea what to expect when I rented the movie from The story centers around an amiable young drifter named Sean Crawley (Chris McKenna), who is hired by shady construction contractor Ray Matthews (Daniel Baldwin) to "spy" on accountant Eric Gatley (Ron Livingston), and report on his activities. When Sean visits the accountant's home things go terribly wrong and he ends up killing Gatley. Matthews and his buddy "Duke" Wayne (George Wendt) reproach Sean for the murder and refuse to pay him. They viciously display their animosity by torturing Sean and repeatedly bashing him in the side of the head with a golf club.

Daniel Baldwin is a Twitter pal and distant cousin of mine. I know him as a charismatic, savvy, humorous dude who wouldn't harm a fly. It was something of a shock to see him portray loathsome brute Ray Matthews with such agility. In truth, the characters of Ray Matthews and Daniel Baldwin are polar opposites, a fact which led me to the realization that Daniel Baldwin is an exceptionally fine and vastly under-rated actor! Chris McKenna was equally as impressive in his role as Sean Crawley. By the end of the movie it was Sean who took out his vengeance on his tormenters.

If you're looking for a "happily ever after" ending, avoid this film like the plague. There are few redeeming players in the drama but the special effects and acting are superb. If you have the stomach to wade through all the violence and gore this flick is well worth viewing!
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on June 21, 2004
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 Bond" and he just answers: 'No, Sean 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!
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HALL OF FAMEon July 10, 2005
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.
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on November 19, 2004
Here's a question: why is there so much inequality and injustice in the world?

Let's frame that another way: why is it that some men get exactly what they want right down to their death in a $50 million Bel-Air castle, while others slave miserably to the extremely bitter end, desperately poor and unhappy in the very clutch of Death, cursing God, society, and destiny?

As Stuart Gordon's unlikely protagonist Sean Crawley (Chris McKenna) in the gut-bustingly brutal beating-disguised-as-movie "King of the Ants" might say: "Why does there have to be a reason?"

"King of the Ants" is Gordon's most philosophical movie: "King" has a lot on its mind, no pun intended---and working against type, the movie is brutally straightforward. That makes "King of the Ants" seem strange and foreign and a little unsettling to Gordon regulars. After all, whether he's conjuring up Lovecraft ("The Beyond", "Re-Animator", "Dagon") or cobbling together a warning on the perils of buying real estate sight-unseen ("Castle Freak"), Gordon is a typically baroque director: a Gordon set is a busy set, with lots of devils and lots of details.

Not so here: "King of the Ants" takes that approach, turns it on its head, and plants the sucker face-first into the middle of seamy, steamy Los Angeles. This flick gets straight down to business, plopping its dweeby loser protagonist Sean Crawley down with seemingly affable, amiable fellow housepainter Duke (George Wendt, of whom we will say more later). Crawley is aimless, directionless, pathetic, and eager to please (and make some money on the side): The Duke has an idea and thinks Crawley is the perfect man for the job.

It's a simple plan: follow some schlubbo bureaucraft from City Hall around, keep an eye on him, report his activities back to The Duke. Crawley tries to come across as a shrewd negotiator and a wise-guy with The Duke: I felt embarrassed for him as he quickly and inexorably wilted. For fun, keep an eye on Wendt's facial expressions in this first 'negotiation'.

So naturally, Crawley agrees to the "job", and lamely trails his target on his bicycle, keeping an eye on his mark and---increasingly---on the man's wife (Carlie Westerman). One thing leads to another, and as Yeats said "things fall apart...the center cannot hold": Gears are set in motion, and the rest of "King of the Ants" ratchets like a Devil's Hellride, in which Crawley is subsequently and ruthlessly introduced to greed, lust, murder, betrayal, the oilly Ray Mathews (Daniel Baldwin), Mathews's oillier henchmen, and the amazingly liberating properties of a Number 3-Wood golf club applied early and often, gruesome torture, and a little exposure and starvation thrown in for good measure.

Gordon and his faithful cinematographer Mac Ahlberg (who worked with Gordon on "Robotjox" and "Re-Animator") have managed to cook up a nasty little piece of work: I don't know what it is, but I like it. It's spare. It's edgy. It feels raw, ruthless, hardcore; simple, clean and lethal. Turn off your expectations of what a Gordon film "should" feel like and just let it all sink it, drink it all up: see if you don't think "King of the Ants" feels like a freshman effort by a radical rebel filmmaker---and I mean that in the best possible way.

That's really all you need to know about "King of the Ants" before digging in. That, and the fact that most of the acting is astonishing. Chris McKenna ("Crawley"), an unknown, wears the role like a glove and owns this film: it's amazing to see the wild flare and riptide of emotions over his face. And sure, go into this movie expecting the warm fat cuddliness of Norm from "Cheers": Wendt proves that fat men need not be jolly. He's terrifying and totally plausible. Baldwin is slimy, repulsive, and perfectly tailored to his role: I work with guys like him every day. Carlie Westerman is the lone exception: I didn't buy her role and her willingness to take in a possibly deranged drifter, but Westerman's role is just to get things from point A to point B.

Now, for those of you who have seen the movie, I want to back up what I said earlier about "King" being Gordon at his most philosophical. Some have described "King of the Ants" as being a straightforward 'revenge' story: I agree that it's straightforward, but I don't think it has much to do with revenge. I think it's more of a "personal liberation" movie, or maybe an "Ideas have Consequences" movie.

For the last 40 years we've worked overtime in American society to dethrone our most common, basic assumptions, chief of which is the idea of God, universal Truth, punishment for Evil. I bet if you took an honest poll, about 85% of American schoolkids have as much faith in God as they do in Santa Claus. Maybe that's cynicism talking, but I've got a pretty good pulse on popular culture, and frankly I don't think so.

Where does that leave us? Watch closely what happens when the Duke leads Crawley into the reptile house, and listen to what is said---and then think about this: when we dethrone the Divine, when we eliminate objective Truth in the universe, what else is left but brutal survival? If there is no Good or Evil, no punishment beyond this world, then I should take what I can grab---right? What else is left but doing whatever you want to do? What other threat is there but the threat of death---and if you can master the fear of dying, what limitations do you have? And isn't that truly what is meant by "Freedom"?

The horror of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" was that its scientist started with a monster and worked to create a Man. The horror of "King of the Ants" is that its "scientists" start with a Man and work backwards.
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on July 4, 2004
This is more like a drama that becomes a horror film because of the horrific events that follow. The film so disturbed major studios that they refused to produce it (source: the Featurrette on the DVD). I really liked it but it was disturbing. The main character is a likeable twentysomething man who takes odd jobs where he can. Eventually he's offered and accepts a shady job. And... Just when we've grown to like guy, he proceeds to commit a despicable act and then gets double-crossed for it. How he gets double-crossed and what is done after makes the intense meat of this unique film. All the while we are rooting for the main character as criminal as he is-- which is part of what makes King of the Ants so disturbing. The film is so titled because the main character is referred to, at one point, as an "ant"-- "insignificant". But he begins to regard himself as the "King of the Ants". What a transformation. Not for the faint of heart. Similar to another movie called "May" in which a young lonely girl transforms into something else: May went from drama to horror by the end also.
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on August 26, 2005
This movie has the sickest scenes I have ever seen in my life. I have watched many disturbing movies, "I Spit on your Grave", "Last House on the Left", "The Night Porter", etc. but those movies pale in comparison to this. The beating scenes are gritty and completey realistic. To be honest I could not watch the whole sequence. It is the torture more than the violence that got to me. The psychological torture of anticipating the beatings through the eyes of the victim (at that moment). The Baldwin brother who was on the TV show Homocide plays a villain

in this movie and is very convincing as a total piece of garbage. The torture is really bad because it does not occur all at once and is spread out over time so the main character and the viewer have time to recover only to go through it again and again and again. Yikes!!!! If ever a movie should be NC-17 this is it. Tons of blood and gore cant compare to realistic torture sequences. This movie's torture scenes make Resevoir Dogs torture scene look like something from an A-Team episode. Be warned!!!
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on May 27, 2005
I was shocked as I looked at this movie plenty of times and passed it up, until I read an article in Fangoria #244 article on Stuart Gordon, and decied to rent it. I would say the asking price is to high$15 is more reasonable. This movie does not get boring. The action is good, the plot is good, the acting is actually very good. this movie has already been broken down so no need for me to do so. Overall if you are looking for a good movie that will keep you awake and interested check out "King of the Ants", it is a good flick and doubt you will be dissapointed I know I was'nt.
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