I first heard of Devil Ant in hinted rumors on the Internet—a movie famous not because of any sort of distinctive shots or skills, but rather because of who made it: an Illinoisan gentleman by the name of The Rock—or, rather, David “The Rock” Nelson. I had to know more. I looked into the history of this guy, and most of my searches brought up a 1993 movie called Conrad Brooks versus the Werewolf. Conrad Brooks? As in, Conrad “Plan 9” Brooks? It was interesting, if not fascinating. Then I saw the screenshots of this so-called “Devil Ant”—a rubber ant molesting a man who I was sure was the late Forrest J. Ackerman. It looked so, so amazing.
I was right.
I’ve read up on David “The Rock” Nelson’s movies enough to say that I’ve almost seen all of them. Many of them are based on movies that any young horror fanatic back in the ‘60s would have grown up on, like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man. Others are more original (not to say, of course, that anything The Rock does is not original). That’s why I recommend anyone who wants to introduce themselves to the ways of Rocky Nelson start with Devil Ant. There are no grounds in any previous horror movie, except maybe 1954’s Them! and man-oh-man is it good.
Before I actually review the movie itself, a lowdown must be given about the Nelsonian way. Many movies that I watch and review on my own time have a certain degree of what mere mortals call “competence”. Although Nelson’s movies are not incompetent—not at all—anyone who goes in expecting the traditional limits and formats of camera style and length will be surprised. That having been said: Devil Ant, with the extras that Nelson puts on at the beginning and end of the movie, is about four hours of a rubber ant being thrown at various participants.
Never again will there be another movie quite like this. I’m weeping for that right now, but I don’t know if it’s in happiness or sadness.
A mad scientist (played by Rocky Nelson; perhaps the same mad scientist that appears in other David Nelson films), while dining on vodka, hot dogs, and sardines, entrusts a barrel of toxic waste to his hunchback assistant (played by Rocky Nelson). Unfortunately, the assistant spills the waste into a local river, which turns an ordinary ant into the hideous, sinister Devil Ant! Here, Nelson gets to put the solarizing effect on his camera to good use as the Devil Ant sinks his fangs into a drunken man, the band Matter, and a number of party guests in just a few minutes! That’s just the beginning.
Already I began to pick up two major David Nelson twists, aside from heavy extra features (I learned that in the first hour of the DVD); heavy victim counts, and a tendency to play everyone. Everyone except the victims, that is, and even then, sometimes. The first factor, that of huge numbers of people killed on-camera, becomes swiftly apparent, as dozens fall in just the first hour to the thrown rubber ant. The second factor appears when Rock’s recurring character, Detective Rock (sometimes called Inspector Rock or Detective Nelson, seemingly by accident) shows up—the detective has a tradition in all the movies he appears on to speak to a disembodied voice on the phone and deny the monster exists, while promoting other movies like The Monster of Piedras Blancas and sometimes even Nelson’s own movies (!). He, along with other Rock-played characters, also suffers from a mindless desire to eat nonstop and watch monster (“monstah”) movies.
Plus, the cast expands from Rock regulars—which include his close friends, local Chicagoans, and other attendees of the annual monster convention, “Monster Bash”, which features Rock as an honored guest—to celebrities like horror host Svengoolie, b-movie director Roger Corman (!), and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton (!!!). All fall before the Devil Ant; the only ones who seem capable of resisting the radioactive formicid are children. A baby (represented, eerily enough, by a still picture of the infant son of one of Rock’s friends voiced over by the Rock) can stop the monster, and another kid actually steps on it. I don’t know if Nelson was just abhorrent to children getting killed in his movie or if they possess some sort of special power in Rock-world. It could be both, honestly.
Eventually, the Devil Ant hitches a ride to downtown Chicago, where it floats around, and sometimes scaring people. It visits an adult bookstore and gets a huge caffeine buzz from a local coffee shop. This is the scene that drags the most—just the Devil Ant waltzing around. There’s not even any interruption from Detective Rock, who, by the way, starts to believe that the Devil Ant just might not be an “old wives tale” or “old country superstition”. The Devil Ant mercifully hops a bus or something to Monster Bash, where it goes around biting more necks; it’s only enemy is seemingly “the Eye”, a man who presses his eye against the camera lens. An Egyptian claims that Ancient Egypt had many legends about the Devil Ant before he is cut down. Also, The Rock meets the guy who played the first zombie from the beginning of Night of the Living Dead.
Finally, Detective Rock sees the error of his ways and calls Svengoolie, conveniently at Monster Bash, to stop the ravenous Devil Ant. With the help of his trusty rubber chicken, the monster is laid to rest in pieces, but a fly gets mutated by the radioactive waste to stalk Des Plaines and rack up even more victims! Will the world ever be safe? Tune in to Devil Ant 2!
Plus, the Rock loves giving out extras. My envelope contained flyers and posters for Monster Bash and some other conventions, along with news clippings about Nelson and his movies, a rubber brain, an eyeball, and about three sets of 3D glasses! In addition, it takes about an hour for the actual movie to start up on the DVD—we get trailers for other Rocky Nelson movies, short movies, fake advertisements for “monster cookies”, “blood soda”, “werewolf milk”, and “monster burgers” (“made out of Frankenstein’s old dead body parts!”), plus a segment called “Rock Talks!” about his other movies, and “The Rock Ogre”, a short presentation piece, again, about his other movies. We see plenty of stock footage of old theatre intermission cartoons, like the “Let’s All Go to the Lobby!” one that everyone knows about. It’s great fun, but wears on the mind when you begin to wonder where the movie is. At the end, we get a trailer for Vampire Woman and Mummy AD 1993, and the disk run out of space—a typical ender to many a Rocky Nelson film.
I’m not sure words can properly pay homage to this movie, or any of the movies of David Nelson—the only thing I can recommend is just check out any one of his movies as soon as you can. But be careful: as the Rock warns, his films “may strip touchy critics of their dignity”. I guess I’m not touchy, and what prosper has been brought to me as a result.
– Adam “Mudman” Bezecny
* Side note: I searched forever trying to find box art or even an trailer to this film. Big props to Adam for exposing us to such a obscure flick – Ted*