★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Add another 1/2 if you’re a big fan of Finnish rock music or the Amiga.
Giant ants! I was expecting giant ants and giant ants are what I got. You’d think that’d make me happy. Unfortunately, they were giant ants that drank beer, burped, and also giggled. I couldn’t manage to catch the waiter’s eye to let him know this wasn’t what I’d ordered so I figured overly goofy giant ants were better than no giant ants and watched the movie anyway. Sigh.
Apparently, this movie is based on a computer game of the same name that first came out on the Amiga way back in 1989. On its release, the game was well received and gathered a bit of a cult following. Maybe if I’d played the game back in the day the movie version would’ve given me warm fuzzies of yesteryear remembered and this review would be full of happy nostalgia and glowing praise. Sadly, the Amiga was too fancy for me back then and I missed out. So here we are with a less-than-glowing review. I blame my parents.
It Came From The Desert was a multicultural affair encompassing production elements from Finland, Canada, and the US. Writer/director Marko Mäkilaakso (who seems to primarily work in Finnish TV) joined forces with writer Trent Haaga (Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV), and another writer, Hank Woon Jr. (500 MPH Storm), to adapt the computer game to the big screen.
Their adaptation goes something like this: The movie opens in the middle of a firefight between a group of soldiers in some kind of bunker and… something unseen. It doesn’t end well for the soldiers. Sixty-seven years later, we meet a couple of scrap metal scavenger guys in the desert. They’re only in the movie so they can leave their truck in a convenient place for our heroes and, once they do that, they’re ant food. And, finally, we meet our heroes Lukas, Brian, and Lisa.
Lukas (Alex Mills; The Head Hunter and 100 Streets) may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he’s brave and is a motocross champion. He’s also best friends with Brian (Harry Lister Smith; Murder on the Orient Express and War & Peace), the socially awkward brainiac of the pair. He happens to have a crush on Lisa (Vanessa Grasse; Leatherface and Roboshark) who Lukas invited to the party as a favor to his pal Brian. Party? What party? Why, the “huge” party out in the middle of the desert in celebration of Lukas’ 1st place win at the recent motocross event! Everyone’s gonna be there! It’ll be great!
Our intrepid trio arrives at the party after a motocross race breaks out along the way (as they do). Things are going well until someone else starts talking to Lisa. Brian gets depressed and wanders off into the desert. Lukas catches up with him to dole out some pearls of wisdom about romancing the ladies and they stumble across the scrap metal guys’ truck. That leads to the discovery of the 67-year-old desert bunker which Brian and Lukas naturally need to explore.
After Lisa shows up and saves the boys’ collective bacon by going all Paul Bunyan on a giant ant with a fire axe, the reunited trio hide from all the dead ant’s angry friends in the first room they can find. Conveniently, this room turns out to be a control room of some sort and the gang manages to play a handy explanatory video made by Dr. Renard (Mark Arnold; Blade Runner 2049 and Teen Wolf), one of the scientists responsible for the very large ants. Hooray! Knowledge is power!
Can our heroic trio stop the genetically enhanced, highly intelligent, mildly alcoholic colony of giant ants before they breed and eat the town? If the giant ants can spit acid, why do they only use it against strippers? Were most of the people showing up fashionably late or was that really as big as parties get in the middle of the desert? Sorry, no spoilers! You’ll have to watch It Came From The Desert to learn the answer to all but two of those questions.
Admittedly, I’ve seen worse films. On the one hand, the lead actors did a decent job and the CG ants were probably about as good as you’d see on the SyFy channel. On the other hand, some of the green screen work was pretty lazy and the “hard rock” soundtrack got kinda monotonous (if the giant ants had to listen to Santa Cruz’s “River Phoenix” as much as I did, it’s no wonder they were heavy drinkers). There wasn’t anything original or inventive about the movie. It was pretty much your standard comedy/creature feature. If you love motocross, played the video game back in ’89, and/or got a hankerin’ for some Finnish rock music, you might get more out of it than I did. Otherwise, it’s decent enough to play in the background while you’re putting together a jigsaw puzzle or something, but I wouldn’t suggest going out of your way to see it.