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John’s Horror Corner: Ticks (1993), the EXCELLENT gory giant bug B-movie for the entomologists out there.

April 19, 2019

MY CALL: Honestly, this is one of the better gory B-movies you could choose. Really fun with silly but still actually good creature effects, a hokey premise, and abundant gross effects. Also, best Clint Howard performance in horror ever! MORE MOVIES LIKE Ticks: For more insectoid, arachnid and invertebrate horror try The Nest (1988), Slugs (1988), The Bay (2012), Arachnophobia (1990), Mosquito (1994), The Fly (1986) and Mimic (1997). The Mist (2007) and The Thing (1982) get a bit more tentacular but have some buggy appeal, and The Thaw (2009), Blue Monkey (1987) and Things (1989) use totally made up arthropod-like creatures. And of course, one shouldn’t overlook the sci-fi action Starship Troopers (1997).

No entomologist (or acarologist) would consider a basement a likely home for ticks—unless there was a mammal den of sorts. Yet here we find presumably toxic sludge-run-off from machinery leaking through the floor boards and mutating some pulsating grub-like biological mass. We’ll assume, for the sake of the movie title, that this is supposed to be a tick. And with a little foreshadowing we learn from our resident teen scientist Tyler (Seth Green; Idle Hands, It) that ticks are the “vampires of the insect world” and are too tough to squash. But unlike real ticks, these mutated ticks are the size of rodents, scramble with impressive dexterity and leap at their prey. They also form big, brain-like cocoons that drop from the ceiling like paratrooper facehuggers. Whether discussing nature or monster movie dynamics, it’s pretty ridiculous. But in a B-movie, it’s pretty amusing.

Holly (Rosalind Allen; Children of the Corn II) runs a camp for troubled teens in the woods of California. Among the campers are Tyler, Dee Dee (Ami Dolenz; Witchboard 2, Pumpkinhead II), Melissa (Virginya Keehne; The Dentist) and Darrel (Alfonso Ribeiro; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). Upon inspecting their camp cabin, Tyler finds one of those organ-like squishy cocoons and pierces it, resulting in a thick green oozy discharge. Deliciously gross!

The tone of Ticks is akin to Leprechaun (1993) or Critters (1986)—gory yet comfortably silly and completely self-aware. Approaching much less serious horror than his past venture and swooping in not long after his excellently gross 80s sequel, director Tony Randel (Hellbound: Hellraiser II) confetties this flick with messy special effects. The slimy cocoons are presented abundantly and refreshingly in several different manners, there is plenty of blood and detailed visceral guts, and I loved the animatronics and stop-motion effects.

It should come as no surprise that Clint Howard (Ice Cream Man, Evilspeak, Leprechaun 2) totally steals the show when he encounters the first tick, the first cocoon, and suffers the first infestation. And yes, he gets infested! The ticks burrow under the skin and Howard frantically shoots himself in hopes of dispatching the vermin. The latex and gore are a hot gooey mess of awesome and Howard acts the heck out of it with full-tilt madness.

Another crowd-pleasing favorite was the Ripley-Newt facehugger-like (Aliens) scene with the tick scrambling along the floor, up walls, and leaping at faces. Appropriately, it was followed by a gory facehugger dissection-like (Alien) scene and another featuring a clustered mass of egg-cocoons harkened of Gremlins (1984) as much Aliens (1986).

There’s even a gigantic tick that awesomely tears out of someone’s body, covered in entrails—perhaps playfully echoing the giant monster surprises in Ghoulies II (1988), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), The Gate (1987) or Critters (1986). Because who doesn’t want a giant version of the movie monster, right?

Of all the bad movies I love, this ranks among the very best in terms of rewatchability. Yes, it’s a B-movie and it knows it. But it swings for the fences and snags a grand slam. The pacing is energetic, you’ll enjoy recognizing some of the cast, and effects are pretty excellent, diverse and abundant (we never see the same gag twice without a different fun spin on it)… oh, and very gory! What a blast!

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