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  It Came from the Desert That Grand Insects And Beer CombinationBuy this film here.
Year: 2017
Director: Marko Mäkilaakso
Stars: Harry Lister Smith, Alex Mills, Vanessa Grasse, Mark Arnold, Callum McGowan, Andrew Horton, Claudio Trujillo, James Alper, Aino Silje, Michael Majalahti, Ari Savonen, Juha-Pekka Mikkola, Ross Ellis, Jose Varela, Petri Aulin, Gregory Rowbottom
Genre: Comedy, Action, Science Fiction, Adventure
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sixty-eight years ago, there was an event in the middle of the desert: a huge meteorite crashed to earth and exploded. Now, the effects of that are being felt, as a research station was set up by a powerful corporation only to be overrun by the very creatures it tried to examine: ants that thanks to the effects of the meteorite grew to enormous size. That station has been abandoned, and only receives occasional visitors such as the prospectors who wound up on the wrong end of the insects' massive pincers, so as it is located so remotely very few people know about it. But what if one bright spark decided to hold a party there? Would that really be a good idea - or a major mistake?

You can probably count the movie adaptations of computer games that were any good on the fingers of one hand, and It Came from the Desert was another brave (or foolish) specimen to try and make something out of the first-person experience. This was a little different, however, as it was not drawing on a property that was recent and still ongoing as a gaming concern, it was from an Amiga point and click/shoot 'em up combination adventure that arrived at the tail end of the nineteen-eighties. You would be hard pressed to find many who actually recalled it now, but the international co-production that made the movie didn't appear to be overwhelmingly bothered by that.

Indeed, they seemed to be coasting on the sheer novelty of someone crazy enough to make a film out of what, in game terms, was verging on the ancient - though one supposed if Dwayne Johnson could make a medium-sized hit out of Rampage, which genuinely was an ancient arcade entertainment, then maybe the brains behind this revival were not so foolhardy after all. If anything, judging by the footage of the original rolling during the credits, there was even less narrative in its spin-off movie than there had been in the source, as director Marko Mäkilaakso opted to keep things as simple as possible and lean on a semi-spoofy, romping tone to his efforts.

This was aware of its precedents, not games like Ant Attack so much as the fifties giant monster movies, with the obvious influence Them! referenced explicitly in the dialogue, though this was not so dedicated to the past that it was a faithful pastiche: there were still such sequences as a dirt bike race for life between the riders and the giant ants which were more indebted to a previous item, the not exactly blockbuster and only slightly cult humorous horror Eight-Legged Freaks. In fact, replace the ants with large spiders and this could very easily have operated as a sequel to that, though perhaps there wasn't enough interest in such a thing - mind you, you can't imagine there was a massive amount of clamouring for a movie based around an almost thirty-year-old computer game, either.

All that said, and with the scepticism that greeted this a given, it wasn't that bad, making attractive use of the Spanish deserts which had, decades before, passed for North America in the Spaghetti Westerns, and effects for the menaces that while not entirely slick, were very decent considering the budget. If anything, it might have been that It Came from the Desert was not parodic enough, as despite characters who cheerfully verged on caricatures of stock types on this type of affair, the director played this fairly straightforwardly, so faithful to the clichés of the genre that it ended up using them to its own ends. Not to say this was necessarily a drawback, but for a supposed comedy you might have expected a few more well-earned laughs, when from many angles this simply looked like precisely the style it was supposedly sending up. For that reason, this could disappoint, but on the other hand if you wanted a good, old-fashioned monster movie like they don't make anymore, then here was evidence they did. Music by Mika Mäkilaakso.

[Thunderbird Releasing have put this out on DVD, with a VFX featurette and trailer as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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