Briefly released to theaters in 1993 under the title INFESTED, TICKS is a gruesomely effective marriage of 1950s and 1990s horror styles. In the California backwoods, Jarvis Tanner (Clint Howard) uses chemicals to stimulate his marijuana crop, but winds up spawning crab-sized, mutated ticks that kill him. Shortly thereafter, social workers Holly (Rosalind...read more
Briefly released to theaters in 1993 under the title INFESTED, TICKS is a gruesomely effective marriage of 1950s and 1990s horror styles.
In the California backwoods, Jarvis Tanner (Clint Howard) uses chemicals to stimulate his marijuana crop, but winds up spawning crab-sized, mutated ticks that kill him. Shortly thereafter, social workers Holly (Rosalind Allen) and Charles (Peter Scolari) bring a group of troubled youths to the
forest for an outing: agoraphobic Tyler (Seth Green), spoiled rich girl Dee Dee (Ami Dolenz), her boyfriend Rome (Ray Oriel), Charles's rebellious daughter Melissa (Virginya Keehne), street tough Panic (Alfonso Ribiero), and withdrawn Kelly (Dina Dayrit). The kids immediately find the ticks'
oversized egg sacs in the area, and they're visited by the strange duo of Sir (Barry Lynch) and Jerry (Michael Medeiros), who warn them about local marijuana farmers.
Panic's dog Brutus is attacked by a tick, and Panic runs off in a fury while Charles and Tyler take the stricken animal to a vet. Melissa and Kelly discover the murdered body of the local sheriff, while Dee Dee, off in the woods with Ray, is bitten by a tick and begins to suffer hallucinations.
Panic, who has also been bitten, is confronted by Sir and Jerry, who prove to be pot harvesters themselves; they shoot him, accidentally starting a fire in a gas tank. Charles, Tyler, Rome, and Dee Dee make it back to the cabin just before Sir and Jerry burst in, fleeing the fire and an army of
At first, Sir and Jerry put on a friendly act, but it's shattered when the dying Panic arrives. Sir pulls a shotgun and forces Jerry to fetch Holly and Charles's truck; Jerry, however, gets bitten by a tick and crashes the truck into the cabin. Then Panic's body splits open and there emerges a
five-foot tick, gorged on Panic's steroid-rich blood. It kills Sir and sends the others scurrying upstairs. Thanks to Tyler's bravery, the group manages to escape before the cabin explodes, presumably destroying all the ticks. But as their junked truck sits in a wrecking yard, an egg sac drops
from its underside.
TICKS represents an updated take on the classic "giant bugs" films of the '50s; in this case, however, the creepy-crawlers involved are only slightly larger than normal, which actually makes them scarier. Special effects creator Doug Beswick, who came up with the original story in the 1970s,
uses a combination of stop-motion and live-action props to bring the ticks to life, and they're genuinely creepy, scuttling all over the woods and the cast to chilling effect. Tony Randel, confirming himself as one of the more talented directors on the '90s low-budget horror scene, orchestrates
the buggy mayhem with a good deal of skill. As in most of his previous films (CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT, AMITYVILLE 1992), he keeps the outlandish terrors grounded in a realistic style until going all-out with Grand Guignol grisliness at the climax.
Brent V. Friedman's plotting and characters are no better than they need to be, but his young protagonists are generally more sympathetic than the average horror-pic teens. One has to wonder what kind of social program Holly and Charles are running--once they get to the campground, they don't
seem to have anything for the kids to do--but the film moves so swiftly that plot holes are easy to ignore. The origin of the outsized bugs is even relatively plausible by genre standards, and it also provides an organic way for the filmmakers to introduce the story's human villains. (Graphicviolence, profanity.)
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