If anybody knows anything about me, they know two things. 1) I can’t do three pull ups in a row and 2) I like a short movie. In this modern era of four hour epics, a tight ninety minute film is like eating the perfect amount to be satisfied as opposed to trying to get your money’s worth at a Waffle House all you can eat and wanting to die afterwards. (True story!)
So, I’m starting a semi-regular feature called the —
Today’s feature in the 90 Minute Movie Roundup is a little gem from 2017 called, It Came from the Desert. The movie, written by Marko Mäkilaakso, Trent Haaga, and Hank Woon Jr. and directed by Mäkilaakso, is based on a video game from 1989 by the same name. Full disclosure, I’ve never played the game. Or heard of it. Or the movie. But boy, I’m glad I do now because this thing is banana pants.
It Came from the Desert is about an alien meteor that hits the earth back in 1950. Whatever extraterrestrial DNA was on that meteor (the only information given by the film is that it’s “alien DNA”) is then spliced into ants, with a little bit of spider DNA for kicks, because what else is one going to do with all these spiders lying around, and then grown to “the size of a horse.” Why? Don’t worry. We’ll get there.
The movie starts with a narrator talking about how the meek shall inherit the earth. Taken literally, it points to the fact we’re about to see a bloody ant rebellion because ants are nothing if not meek. Metaphorically, however, it’s talking about this dude —
— our goofy, good-hearted, nerdy hero, Brian (Harry Lister Smith). When we first meet Brian and his inexplicable hair, he’s watching a bad 1980s-style B-Movie action film starring this dude known as the Eradicator (Michael Majalahti).
Brian’s a motocross mechanic for his best friend, Lukas (Alex Mills), who just won a big race, and they’re headed out to the desert in order to throw a rager and celebrate Lukas’s win, which is going to culminate in an appearance by the Eradicator himself. Brian is probably the single biggest Eradicator fan and is so excited to meet his idol. Before going out to the desert and getting righteously hammered, they need to make a pit stop first. See, Lukas invited Brian’s crush, a young woman by the name of Lisa (Vanessa Grasse).
Lisa hops in the truck and we find out she might be an even bigger Eradicator fan than Brian when she talks up one of the movies as being the unsung gem of the many Eradicator films. She goes on to say “…it really embodies what these movies should be about, the stunt work and the ridiculous plot, combined with [an] increased budget…”
This is where we get our first glimpse that It Came from the Desert knows exactly what it is and what its goal is. It knows it’s a cheeseball, action-filled, camp-fest and it doesn’t even try to shy away from that. In fact, it steers right into its molten, cheesy center. And as much as you probably think a “giant ant movie” is going to be terrible, It Came from the Desert gets a lot of things right.
While partying in the desert, waiting for the Eradicator to arrive, Lukas and Brian wander off and find a cave leading to an abandoned facility for something called Chicane Industries. Brian wants to get back to the party, but Lukas eggs him on to go inside and investigate. Always the smart thing to do when you come across a spooky abandoned building is run right into it.
Lukas, of course, wants to move the party inside the abandoned factory despite the fact that it’s creepy and at one point they walk past blood-smeared walls before turning around to head back to the party. But whoops… there’s a giant ant in the way.
Neither one of them are really that shocked by it. I mean, they’re scared because who wouldn’t be, but if you told me the answer to “Are ants giant” was going to be “Yes,” then I’d probably have some follow up questions.
Our guys don’t have time for questions, however. Just when it looks like it’s lights out for our heroes, Lisa comes to the rescue and bashes in the ant’s skull with an axe like she’s had years of pent-up rage just waiting to get out. They’re all definitely going to need therapy after this, but I think Lisa has some deep digging to do in other areas of her life.
Before they can get their bearings at there being just the one giant ant, Lisa makes the following discovery —
“A wounded ant emits an alarm pheromone that sends nearby ants into an attack frenzy and attracts more ants from farther away.”
So, guess what happens next?
The ants swarm and attack the desert kegger, killing people left and right in a gorefest worthy of any good monster movie. But not all the attendees are killed. Many are taken down into the depths of the facility, where eggs have been laid. Here, the people, including potential love interest Lisa, are cocooned up and ready for the young baby ants to feast on once they hatch. In case you’re thinking, like I was, “wait a minute, ants don’t wrap prey up in cocoons,” remember they threw in some spider DNA for reasons unknown.
Meanwhile, our heroes run into mad scientist Dr. Renard (Mark Arnold) who explains to them that while yes, the Batch 9 ants are smart enough to anticipate feeding schedules and ambush their crack squad of mercenaries, the Batch 10 ants will be better suited for his purposes. They find out he spliced ant DNA with tarantula DNA and grew them to super size in order to protect people? Something about spiderwebs from alien ants being stronger than kevlar. It’s a bit eggy but it doesn’t matter much because the good doctor’s almost immediately killed by the queen. But not before telling them about the automated sentry guns all over the desert.
“Great, in addition to giant ants we now have robot machine guns to contend with.”
The boys have to get to another facility in order to get the “special weapons” they need to penetrate the ants’ thick hides. Once there, they find not only the weapons but also these dope ass suits…
Once in their space suits, they just so happen to find two motorbikes sitting around outside the facility, fully gassed up and ready to go. They race back to save Lisa and the rest of their wrapped-up friends. Then, they put their final plan into play. The big moment. The hail Mary. Lukas is going to stay and burn the eggs while Brian and Lisa jump on a bike in order to lead the rest of the ant army right through the middle of the sentry guns, blowing them all away.
Well, almost all of them. Because the queen is still out there and the babies are on the verge of hatching at any moment.
Brian and Lisa find themselves being chased by the queen. They reach a seemingly dead end when they come to the edge of a chasm, one that seems impossible to jump. But then Lisa gives Brian the confidence he needs by planting a big, wet kiss on him. And everybody knows kissing your crush helps them defy physics. He fires up the engine and races towards the cliff.
Now, I feel like there was a real missed opportunity here with the ant queen. See, the queen has wings and ant queens in real life can fly when they’re young. Why they didn’t have the queen just fly over the chasm is beyond me. Perhaps it’s because what we got instead was even weirder.
On the other side of the chasm is an abandoned truck from a couple thieves who got eaten earlier on. Our heroes jump in after their bike falls into the chasm but as they’re driving off, they start moving backwards because the queen ant spit a spiderweb at them, and as we all know now, those webs are stronger than kevlar. It’s up to Lisa to stand in the back of the truck and mow down the queen before they’re dragged down into the chasm.
You know what? I don’t know why I’ve been calling Brian and Lukas the heroes this whole time. Lisa’s the one who’s kicking ass and taking names. I need the sequel where Lisa and a band of badass sorority ladies kick a bunch of mutant ant ass.
Now that the queen’s dead, the only thing left to do is blow up the eggs as they’re hatching and save the day.
And they all rejoiced.
That’s when the Eradicator finally shows up. Rolling up on his motorcycle like he’s too cool for school. That is, until one final ant appears as the villain’s last jump scare (no horror comedy is complete without one more thing to kill) and the Eradicator turns into a drooling baby. Good thing our hero and her two goofball friends are there to take care of things and put this threat to rest once and for all.