WRITER: Brent V. Friedman
DIRECTOR: Tony Randel
STARRING: Rosalind Allen as Holly Lambert
Ami Dolenz as Dee Dee Davenport
Seth Green as Tyler Burns
Virginya Keehne as Melissa Danson
Ray Oriel as Rome Hernandez
Alfonso Ribiero as Darell 'Panic' Lumley
Peter Scolari as Charles Danson
Dina Dayrit as Kelly Mishimoto
Michael Medeiros as Jerry
Barry Lynch as Sir
Clint Howard as Jarvis Tanner
Rance Howard as Sheriff Parker
Judy Jean Berns as Dr. Kates
QUICK CUT: A bunch of trouble kids from the city are shipped out to the woods to get down with nature, and instead run smack dab into an infestation of mutated ticks. Yeah, that'll make them run right back to the city.
Tyler - One of our troubled kids, who gets shipped off to the woods because of his issues with being left alone in the woods. Oh, that'll go well.
Panic - He starts off as your typical street punk gang member, but the movie quickly peels back the layers and reveals he's secretly a sweet kid, and he forms an almost instant friendship with Tyler. He also brings an ill-fated dog on the trip into the woods.
Jerry and Sir - Somehow our villains of the movie, despite having giant mutated ticks running around. Shhh, they're drug dealers and pot growers, but we won't find that out for awhile. Sir is incredibly over the top (Which is obvious from HIS NAME BEING SIR!) and brings some crazy fun times. Jerry is his straight man, and a bit of a dim bulb.
Rome and Dee Dee - Two of the other kids on the trip, and romantically linked, so you know they wander off into the woods and bad things follow. Pretty typical LA stereotypes, otherwise.
THE GUTS: Well, it looks like after Trisk went to the Dogs, they went and left us infested with Ticks, a weird little mutated monster attack movie from the 90s starring Seth Green, Ami Dolenz, and a couple of Howards. Let's see how this goes...
The movie gets the egg sac rolling as Oz is dropped off by his dad at some program to get better, and drives off. I don't think that's how you treat lycanthropy. But seriously, he drops his kid off in the middle of nowhere Los Angeles, off the side of a highway near an overpass? This looks more like child abandonment than anything else.
Oz wanders through the area, as he flashes back to mini-Tyler alone in the woods wondering where his parents are. Oh man, talk about abandonment issues! This seems like a terrible idea getting more terribler. And of course, that's when some gang member pop out of the concrete.
Fortunately, he makes a few hoops and the Dansons show up to take Tyler on his wilderness hike. As well as his new friend, and a few other kids who show up with a few lines of character establishing dialogue. Ahh, a bunch of kids dragged off into the woods to commune with nature and be killed by it. A classic!
After a brief scene reestablishing the weird mechanical device oozing out stuff to remind us that this isn't just a nature hike movie, we jump back to our kids finding the woods, and Tyler finding a tick on Panic's dog. And I just love that it is Oz, of all people, who calls them the vampires of the insect world. Dude from Buffy would know from vampires!!
While the gang stops to get some gas and narrowly escapes meeting any Harbingers, the movie slides back to weird contraption dude and he's setting up a bear trap when the titular ticks decide to finally get some action going. After a brief appetizer of his pet mouse, they decide to leap right into the Clint Howard buffet.
The campers land at their destination, and the boys pile out into their cabin, where Oz finds another egg sac and pokes at it until it spits out goodies like a tick-filled pinata. Ew.
While the doc watches his subjects, Tyler and the doc's daughter wander through the woods establishing how much she hates all this, and how he sometimes gets feelings that bad things are going to happen. Yeah, you and Forrest Whittaker.
And wonder of wonders, Oz is right! Because that's when the girl backs into an egg sac and one of the giant ticks decides to try and latch onto her back.
He manages to pry it off, and I love that the giant tick runs away...with the big stick used to get rid of it. Great. Now it has weapons.
They race back to the camp to try and do the smart thing and escape the movie, but the adults naturally think it's just the city kids reacting to nature and fresh air. Which is when the creepy guys from the gas station show up and NOW warn them to be careful of people in the woods. Did you guys not get the script? We make these warnings at the gas station in these movies.
Clint Howard manages to not be dead yet, but he seems to be infested with bugs. So naturally he goes for a gun to deal with it by trying to shoot himself.
After Clint, the bugs go looking for more snacks, and come across their ancient enemy, the dog. Specifically, Panic's dog. He hears the scream and finds his pet, bringing it back to the camp.
Sheriff Rance Howard shows up to check out the dog, and look for his brother Clint, then drives off. And Oz tells us Carlton went back to Belaire because he's had enough of this nature stuff. Well, that handily gets him out of the plot to die without anyone suspecting he's missing, eh?
Danson grabs Tyler to go looking for Panic, and we get to find out why the kid hates the woods so much as he opens up and tells all about his dad getting drunk and leaving him all alone in the forest. Nice.
They also stop by the vet's with Brutus to poke around and see what happened, which leads to the vet yanking out one of the giant ticks, giving everyone the first real clue that things ain't right around here. And they thought the worst they had to deal with was pot growers in the woods.
But the bug ain't dead yet and it skitters away while the trio tries to grab it again. It attacks Oz and then gets squished...but if these ARE ticks, I thought they were too tough to squish? Is it just part of their larval state that these can be? Or the mutation that made them large? Or are we going back to some excuse with large bugs not being able to sustain themselves as well?
See? I even tied it back to "Dogs".
The vet does an autopsy, determines it's a wood tick, and gives us some explanations that the growth was caused by some steroids that the pot farmers use to accelerate growth, which may also have strengthened its neurotoxin. Which also would have given the dog a bad trip.
Great, so we have giant pot bugs attacking people and making them high.
While Panic is being atticked, the gang back at the camp is refusing to commune with nature outside of getting their tans, until some of them are forced to go off fishing. Oh, and two others go off to have some of their own kind of fun in the woods, in the time honoured tradition of camping horror movies.
The fishing trip goes horribly wrong when the line gets stuck. Instead of it being stuck on a tick out for a swim, Melissa and Kelly find the dead sheriff floating around. Huh. When did that happen? Also, his car has been covered up and hidden...I don't think ticks did that...
For a trip that was supposed to be all about getting these kids better for various reasons, they're instead gonna be permanently traumatised, aren't they?
Meanwhile, the city girl stumbles across Clint Howard's Pot Emporium and also discovers the motherlode of egg sacs. So of course she gets her face right up to them.
Before she can get attacked by them, she instead runs into the STILL not dead Clint politely asking for her help. And by politely, I mean loudly screaming and waving a gun at her for help.
A tick finally explodes from his face and makes the girl run off screaming. Okay, is he finally dead? And is this where he got the worms for Silent Night Deadly Night 4: The Initiation?
We wander back to Panic! in the woods, and starting to have a bad trip, when he runs into the creepy dudes from earlier, who are, gasp! Growing pot!
There's fighting, there's stabbing, there's yelling. This is really just a side plot to give Panic stuff to do, more than anything, so we'll skim past this. Except to say that the pot field accidentally gets set on fire, so now *everyone* is gonna be baked.
Most notable is that Panic gets shot, and it would be a shame for him to serve no function in the plot other than to bring his dog on the trip to die and then be killed himself in a way utterly removed from the rest of the movie.
Meanwhile, Rome is trying to get the girl who got Clinted on back to camp, and the drug-laden neurotoxins have her seeing him as Clint Howard. Now that's the real nightmare.
The gang from the vets show up and pick up their wayward campers, starting to pull the various threads together as we slide towards the final act.
And I just love that this movie keeps flashing back to the burning pot fields with this epic shots of forest fires with equally epic music. Also, the fire starts driving the ticks towards the plot too.
They lock themselves up in the camp cabin, but the pot growers show up covered in ticks. So of COURSE they let them in. This may be the single most stupid decision I've seen since some camper kicked their map in the river for shits and giggles while hunting the Blair Witch.
I mean, seriously? If we hadn't seen anything, MAYBE let them in, fine. But one of the guys smooshes his face against the window and it is covered in ticks. I mean, *really*?
Surprisingly, they peel them all off and stomp them. Strange, these bugs are weirdly easy to take care of.
Equally surprising, Panic is not dead yet and shows up at the cabin to be let in. The jerkbags say to not do it. Hey, if they let you asshats in covered in the things they should be avoiding, they're gonna let in the guy they know and give a crap about. THAT YOU SHOT.
Poor Panic shows up, high from the bites, shot, beaten, and probably doubly high from the thick cloud of pot smoke. He is the luckiest guy to still even be alive at this point.
Well, aside from the blood-sucking ticks draining his life, but they set those on fire and make them explode, so *I'm* happy.
Sadly, after all that, it's no big shock that Panic dies right there on the cabin floor. Honestly, I respect that he made it back to die with the rest of the movie.
In a gasp inducing twist, the pot growers turn out to be really terrible people and try to take the van from the gang to make their own escape. And they shoot the doctor when he tries to run for it. And they start punching people. There's lotsa screaming.
Since they can't trust any of the campers to get the van, Sir sends his minion Jerry to get it, no matter how much he protests. Because he's the only one he vaguely trusts.
Which leads to Jerry waving a torch around trying to get to the van, and *whipping ticks*. I never thought those two words would ever be together. Whipping Ticks. I think that's gonna be the name of my Spin Doctors cover band.
Jerry still manages to get bitten, and he starts having a bad trip and seeing the dead sheriff he killed seeking zombie revenge. Well, that's one plus for the movie; Zombie sheriff Rance Howard.
The guy tries to save himself by running down the dead man that's not there, which makes him crash the van right through the wall of the cabin. Well, so much for this place being safe and secure. On the upside, the doors for the van are now handily right there!
While the ticks invade the cabin, Sir loses it and starts shooting wildly. Fortunately the only thing damaged is the already broken cabin, so no big loss. The Scooby gang tries to escape in the van, but the dude with the gun remembers he'd like to escape.
He threatens Melissa, and Rome pounces and stabs him in the neck, but annoyingly, Sir isn't dead yet.
Meanwhile, Panic's body starts flailing around as the ticks inside him decide it's time to come out and play. Which would've been more of a threat if there wasn't a van-sized hole in the wall, but whatever.
Oh, and it turns out it's not just a family of ticks, it's actually just one giant tick tearing its way out of Panic's body. Well. This movie suddenly got very Kafka-esque. I thought I was DONE with Metamorphosis movies??
While Sir watches Panic be shredded open by the mother of all woodticks, the gang upstairs grab the tire swing outside to try and make their escape to the van.
Tyler decides he has to be the one to go, because his panic disorder is acting up. Pfff, tell that to the dude downstairs. Now THAT is a panic disorder!
But seriously, his panic disorder needs him to get out of the room he is in, and outside. With the forest full of ticks. Converging on their cabin. And with the forest on fire. I'm not sure that's LESS panic inducing.
Tyler's escape doesn't go as planned when the rope breaks and he lands on the ground with the ticks seeing a werewolf buffet. He manages to grab a handy broom he landed next to, and sets it alight to use and keep the bugs at bay.
He gets to the van and people start climbing out of the second storey window just as the Panicbug breaks in to feast on their blood.
We almost manage to get everyone to escape, but Rome gets grabbed at the last second, making Oz have to go back to try and save him.
He feeds the Panicbug the broomtorch, saving Rome, and they all drive off into the smoggy LA sunset to live happily ever after, except for the ticks that explode.
No, really. They actually explode. The giant bug causes a giant fireball, which conveniently sets a path of fire to a nearby gas tank that explodes the entire camp. Convenient. That's certainly one way to end things...
But we can't *actually* end there, so cut to the poor van, now abandoned in a junkyard somewhere, and oh look! A convenient surviving egg sac falls off the undercarraige and hatches open the credits.
Video: Rock solid, for a mid-90s movie no one's ever heard of, despite having a few decent names in the cast. It maybe looked a little too washed out, but largely okay.
Audio: The best part is, hands down, listening to the ticks skittering all around.
Sound Bite: "Great, classic story of the adults not believing the kids. Thanks." Gotta love the self aware horror.
Body Count: I am shocked SHOCKED at how NONE of the kids on the trip died, save for poor Panic, and yet the body count is...respectable.
1 - Most everyone's still living 30 minutes in, but the Ticks have taken out Panic's dog Brutus.
2 - Rance Howard died off screen and wound up in the lake.
3 - Clint finally bites it after way too many survivals when a tick explodes from his face.
4 - Panic gets pretty much everything happening to him and dies after being bitten, beaten, drugged, and shot.
5 - I'm gonna assume Jerry died when he crashed the van.
6 - Sir gets eaten by the Panic bug.
Best Corpse: How do I *not* vote for the kid who had a giant tick tear out of his flesh?
Blood Type - B+: This movie is so...gooey. It's not the bloodiest, but it does have some good blood moments, especially when Panic tears open. The makeup is decent, but yeah. Gooey is the word for this movie. And since the director also did Hellraiser 2, that's no big surprise, is it?
Sex Appeal: The barest nod supplied by Rome and Dee Dee, but nothing really.
Drink Up! Every time someone who you thought was dead, turns out to not be so much. Clint? Panic? I'm lookin' at you two. Freakin' Timexes, man.
Sights and Sounds: Gasp! A new video! Yeah, I've been having some MAJOR issues with making videos since I got a new computer, and FINALLY sorted things out so they're coming out the way I want. Which means, memory willing, that this will become slightly more regular. So, with that, I give you some crazy overacting as only Clint Howard can give you.
Movie Review: Ahh, early 90s cheese. It's not bad, really. It has this certain charm to it, the cast is largely likable, and the plot moves along well, even though nothing dies for 30 minutes. They use their time wisely, the shots are creative, and for a low-budgeter, again, it turned out well. There's still plenty of wince-worthy moments though, it's far from perfect, and the plot IS a bit of a mess. The whole thing with Sir and his minion feels horribly ticked on, and doesn't really add much to the story, save for wasting some time. If this was straight up ticks attacking people, we'd have something, but it almost falls into the Corpse Gridners trap of supposedly being about one thing, when it ends up being about something else. Fortunately, there is still PLENTY of ticky goodness that it doesn't become all about the evil drug kingpins of the woods. Three out of five Howard family members.
Entertainment Value: This is all the right kind of cheese though. Clint Howard, for one, in all his Clint Howardy goodness. Lots of recognisable faces that you can laugh at from their early days. The effects are good, but not TOO good (I saw wires!!), but creepy and SO gooey, and hitting all the right notes for giant bugs bursting out of people and biting and all that. While I wish the side plot with Sir and Jerry weren't in this, Sir is SO GREAT and over the top, and he'd be chewing the scenery if the bugs weren't already doing that for him. It's silly, it's charming, it's likable, AND it's fun with good characters. It ticks off all the right boxes for a solid Trisk movie, with only a few minor flaws. Four out of five giant pot ticks.
Now, someone send these ticks after the animals in Dogs, and we'd have a heck of a fight. It would be right up there with Sharktopus vs. Whalestrom.