The script for King of the Ants (2003), from a novel by Charlie Higson, is the best-written of anything Stuart Gordon ever had to work with.
The story reminded me of Jim Thompson novels, & the style of the film awfully close to something John Huston might've been happy to have done.
Gordon is a fine director of horror, but King of the Ants is almost literary & a great stride forward from such camp classics as his first great film, Re-Animator (1985) on which is reputation resides.
The team responsible for this film also got super-lucky casting, finding their star at the last minute so it must've been luck. Newcomer Chris McKenna brings the role of the likeable sociopath to life. There has never been such a well-performed blend of appealingness & insanity since Anthony Perkins first played Norman Bates.
On a five-star rating system this is possibly a four-star rather than five-star film when one thinks of the immortal classics that would be the true five-star items.
And yet there's something about this film that transcends its psycho-killer material, & the work of Jim Thompson does seem the best comparison, the finest of the films based on one of his works being The Grifters (1990).
McKenna as Sean Crawley is a harmless ordinary guy getting by doing odd jobs until Duke (George Wendt doing a great job in an unexpected role as one of the heavies) gets him involved in stuff he'll regret.
Kidnapped & tortured a la Reservoir Dogs (1992) but much worse, he is struck especially in the head in a manner intended to cause sufficient brain damage to keep Sean from ever being able to go to the cops.
He goes through a psychological transformation induced by extreme & recurring torture, until he becomes something that makes the several bad guys wussies by comparison.
This film deserves more attention than it has had. And if the producers of such strong stuff as The Shield or Dexter bought the rights to Stuart Gordon's film to use it as a "pilot" for a series, just so long as they could get McKenna to reprise the title role, this character of "the exterminator" could make a revolutionary cable series.
King of the Ants takes the idea of the anti-hero to new heights (or depths) of seductive amorality, as this film implies pretty certainly that our likeable sociopath, now that he has the hang of things, is never going to stop.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl