Bert I. Gordon
Review by Thomas Scalzo
Posted on 21 October 2004
Source MGM DVD
features: October: 31 Horror Films
Lured to an isolated spit of Florida coastline by dreams of a lucrative investment opportunity, a group of unwitting property speculators find themselves unwelcome guests in the Empire of the Ants; a nightmare world where the monstrous, toxic waste-enhanced ant overlords herd humans like cattle.
Worth viewing for its ample unintentional humor alone, particularly the shots of normal-sized ants scurrying across amateurish models of the set, and the pathetic lamentations of the hapless victims (“It isn’t fair that this should happen to me!”), director Bert I. Gordon’s Empire of the Ants also recommends itself as a genuinely intriguing horror flick, employing a relentless, unforgiving, and omnipresent evil that refuses to allow the hunted any rest or any chance of escape.
By keeping his protagonists in constant flight from the ants, Gordon is able to create an enduring atmosphere of helplessness and never-ending oppression. Even the inevitable climax, when it comes, though filled with the flash of a flare gun, the devastated screams of the ant queen, and a mad dash toward the safety of the river, offers no definitive victory, no sense that the evil has been sufficiently subdued, and no resolution to the immediate fortunes of the characters. The ants ultimately survive, and we leave our heroes adrift among the labyrinthine waterways of the Florida Everglades with no port in sight.
As with his first antagonistic-fauna tale of the 1970s, The Food of the Gods, Gordon’s Empire of the Ants is a fascinating mix of horror, science fiction, and schlock cinema; a brave attempt to mold an outrageous plot, laughable special effects, and scads of inane dialogue into a believable and frightening story capable of conveying a serious message about the ultimate fate of impetuous humanity.