Alan Landsburg served as executive producer on ‘Ants! It Happened At Lakewood Manor’, one of three creepy crawly creature features that he worked on in 1976 / 77 (the others were ‘The Savage Bees’ and ‘Tarantula: Deadly Cargo’ – yes, we know bees aren’t really creepy crawlies under normal circumstances, but these are SAVAGE, so all bets are off).
The ever canny Landsburg then wrote a book called ‘The Insects Are Coming’ about the mini-beast threat, citing the three films that he’d just made as evidence. We really miss that guy.
In ‘Ants!’*, the construction of a casino next to an old family hotel unearths a colony of mutated ants who are immune to normal insecticides and really pissed off at being disturbed. Equipped with a poisonous bite and, of course, strength in numbers, the ants proceed to swarm over people and, by sheer tenacity, toxic mandibles and the liberal use of slow motion, manage to overcome their much larger human enemies.
Hairy building site manager Robert Foxworth does his best to stop the attack by tearing up their nest with a bulldozer but, funnily enough, this just makes it worse. Much worse.
The film follows an almost hypnotically soothing pattern: characters are introduced, we are shown close ups of ants doing stuff, we get to know the characters, they are killed by ants. For a story set on a building site it’s not exactly ground breaking (yes, that is clever wording, thanks), but it’s compelling viewing, especially when they try and combat the ant invasion by digging a trench around the building, filling it with petrol and setting it alight.
In the end, the surviving protagonists are reduced to hiding at the very top of the hotel, holding what look like enormous joints in their mouths and hoping that the ants will be pacified by the smoke until they can be rescued. It all seems a bit pathetic, really – they’re only fucking ants, after all.
* We’ll dispense with the somewhat superfluous suffix now – Lakewood Manor is a made up place, so who cares what happened there? If it was, say, ‘Ants! It happened at Disneyland’, it would be a different matter.)