Ticks (1993)

This week’s B-Movie Enema has a lot of people just about anyone my age (late 30s to early 40s) should recognize pretty  much instantly.  I’m going to be talking about the 1993 direct-to-video horror flick Ticks.  Yeah, yeah, ticks get mutated and start eating people, whatever.

What I really want to discuss before diving into the movie are the people in the movie.  First, we have Seth Green, who might be in the running neck and neck with Chris Hardwick for the title of King of the Nerds.  The man was Oz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he has won awards for his animated pop culture romp Robot Chicken, and he seemed like a pretty good dude when we nodded approval of one another that one time in the security line at LAX.  

Also in this movie are a couple Howards – more specifically, Clint Howard, a classic of B-Movies and the star of one of the B-Movie Enema Hall of Fame movies, Ice Cream Man.  He’s the brother of Ron Howard, but it’s not Ron who also appears in this movie, nope.  It’s Rance Howard, Ron and Clint’s dad.  A couple notable TV actors are in this as well – Alfonso Ribeiro from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Peter Scolari of Bosom Buddies and Newhart fame.

Finally, we have Ami Dolenz.  She’s the daughter of Mickey Dolenz, most notably known as the drummer of The Monkees – one of Geoff’s very favorite bands.  No shit, I know every goddamn lyric of theirs.  I have all their albums on CD and vinyl.

(Kids, CDs were these little metal discs that kind of look like DVDs but they played music.  DVDs were these little metal discs that kind of looked like CDs but they played movies.  Movies are things that were like moving pictures that told some sort of a story?  Not just some paint-by-number bullshit studio stuff.  Music is this ancient idea that you could tell stories or express feelings via songs and lyrics.  Look, kids, I ain’t got time to explain to you everything that you’re missing out on in art.)

Right out of the gate, I put my bootle…  erm…  I mean totally legit DVD of the movie Ticks that I purchased into the computer and I’m presented with a bit of a conundrum.  I’m here for Ticks, but Ami Dolenz’s eyes say I should check out that Phantasm 3 Trailer.

So I did.  After watching that trailer, I started the movie.  We start with a barn that has some smoke billowing out of it.  Inside, there’s some machinery doing stuff to things.  Whatever this machinery is doing, it’s doing two things – it is watering and powering a super secret stash of pot plants and creating some weird, gross green waste.  That waste is dripping on some gooey thing that I think might be a tick or a tick egg?

Are these ticks being mutated by pot?  These ticks are being mutated by pot, aren’t they?

Cut to the city, and Seth Green is being dropped off by his dad at some program to “help him” get “better”.  He has some freak outs from when he was a littler kid.  He stumbles about until he gets to some basketball goal under the freeway in LA.  I’m super curious what the dad has done.  His kid has some issues.  He begs not to be brought to this program, but the dad ignores his pleas.  He drops him off in what appears to be a dump by the interstate in Los Angeles.  Here, he can barely walk straight and he’s having some serious issues.  But don’t worry, this place will make him feel better.  Oh, but then he meets “Panic” who threatens him to make a basket or get his ass cut.  Father of the year material right there!

By the way, Panic is Alfonso Ribeiro and even though he’s kinda killing it as the tough guy, I still can’t wait to see him bust out in his goofy Carlton dance.

Seth Green makes a couple baskets and impresses Panic.  He’s then picked up by Holly and Charles (Scolari) to go on some wilderness thing for inner-city kids.  We meet Charles’ cute teenage daughter, Melissa.  Apparently, Panic is one of these kids too and kind of a good kid I guess?  We also meet Rome and his girlfriend Dee Dee (Dolenz) who seem to be a couple rich kids (or seemingly rich at least considering Dee Dee treats Seth Green like a bellhop).  There is another girl named Kelly who is mostly quiet and keeps to herself.

And so they’re off on their little adventure in the wilderness!

Back at the farm where the mutant pot is being made, we meet, who else, Clint Howard.  Because of course it’s Clint Howard making monster pot ticks.  Here’s the deal, the pot is being genetically altered by steroids and that’s what is running off the machine and falling onto the tick egg goop thing.  Sure.  Anyway, super pot = super ticks.  I’m gonna have to ask Neil DeGrasse Tyson if that’s for real.

At Clint Howard’s farm of nightmares, the giant ticks are loose.  The inner city kids have arrived at their camp, and Seth Green finds a giant tick egg in their closet, but doesn’t do much to it other than poke at it until it empties all the goop and shit onto the floor.  Now, I get it, maybe they are city kids and not used to seeing gross nature shit?  But this looks like a fucking alien cocoon with goo and whatnot.  I kinda feel like everyone on this planet should recognize this is bad business.  He doesn’t get the point until he’s on a walk with Melissa that maybe these giant alien pod like things might be monsters.

Seth Green and Melissa tell Charles about the bug she was attacked by.  Charles is like, “Well we are in the wilderness.” and Holly is all about just steering clear of monster bugs.  They are approached by a couple locals who warn them about pot farmers that might… kill them… or give them problems?  These two weirdos, one of which wants to totally fuck Melissa, tell them to leave the pot farmers to them.  Are pot farmers totally deadly maniac killers?

Okay, yes, Clint Howard is scary, but I feel like he just wants to grow his super monster pot.  Now, the monster ticks have burrowed their way into Clint Howard.  The kids are frustrated and not sure how to handle all this outdoor shit, and Charles just wants to fuck Holly.  Clint Howard isn’t the only one with a tick problem, but Panic’s poor pooch Brutus also gets killed by the monster bugs.  Panic, understandably upset, decides he’s getting out of there.

I want to tip my hat to Alfonso Ribeiro for fucking killing it in this movie.  The dude is acting his balls off.  He’s ranging from street tough concern for Seth Green, to comic relief, to a pal, to actually shedding tears for his dead dog, to flipping the fuck out about always believing he could be gunned down in a drive by shooting but his dog would have been okay.  I feel like most everyone is giving an appropriate level of acting ability for this direct to video horror flick, but Ribeiro was like, “Fuck that!  I’m squaring up and swinging for the goddamn fences!”

The group is told that Panic has taken off to go back to LA.  Seth Green is initially blamed for not stopping him.  Melissa calms Seth Green down and they have a moment that gets interrupted by Charles.  Seth Green and Charles go looking for Panic.  He explains to Charles that he once went camping with his dad but his dad got ripped and took off, leaving Seth Green by himself for over two days.

The whole point of the camping trip is to have these city kids who all have different backgrounds try to figure out how to work together against a common foe – in this case, the wilderness.  Methinks that will be the whole point of the entire movie because now everyone is aware of the scary monster ticks after Charles takes Panic’s dog to the local vet and she discovers the tick that killed Brutus.  Oh, and also the thing is still alive and running about the vet office.  When they can’t capture it, the vet kills it and examines it.  She learns the tick has been genetically altered by a steroid used on pot farms around the area.  The ticks may also cause a hallucinatory state too which would explain some of the dog’s behavior when Panic found him.

Trouble brews for our campers.  Panic has been bitten by one of the ticks.  At the campsite, Melissa and Kelly go fishing in a gross pond while Dee Dee and Rome go off to get laid because Ami Dolenz is very very hot in this movie – but sadly I’ve not had much to say about her because she might be near the top of the billing, but she don’t have much to do.

Melissa and Kelly find the sheriff in the pond dead.  He does not seem to be killed by ticks?  Maybe by those two hilljack local guys?  Why is this a subplot in a monster bug movie?

Anyway, Ami Dolenz runs afoul of a tick-infested Clint Howard (aka Clint Howard), and a tick explodes out of his face and latches onto her sexy, sexy neck.  I guess it wasn’t a Pleasant Valley Sunday after all.  Boom!  Guys…  I did it.  I landed a Monkees joke.  I knew you were waiting for it to happen.  You got like 1575 words into this article and was like, “Where’s a joke about The Monkees?”  Well, there it was.  I just launched that fucker right out of the park and I’m trotting around the bases now marveling in my genius and amazing skills.

The hilljacks find Panic and might be trying to pull a Pulp Fiction with him by possibly planning on raping and killing him?  He stabs one with a knife and beats the shit out of him, but the main bad guy shoots him, but not before shooting some sort of canister that lights one of the pot farms on fire.

Yikes.

Elsewhere, Dee Dee no longer has the tick on her, but she’s hallucinating that Rome is Clint Howard and freaks out.  Charles and Seth Green find them.  Charles plans to pick up the rest of the campers and head back to town.  Meanwhile, the fire started by the hilljack blowing up the canister is forcing the ticks further away from it.  They start to converge on the cabin the campers are staying at.  They, for some reason, let the crazy hilljacks into the cabin.  Panic makes his way back to the cabin as well.

Despite Seth Green saving him from a tick by lighting it on fire (like how you’re supposed to deal with ticks), Panic dies.  It doesn’t take too long for everyone to figure out that the hilljacks shot Panic.  When they start roughing up everyone, Charles goes to stop them and he gets shot in the leg.  They demand the keys to the van so they can escape.

I have to admit, these hilljack pot guys are a really weird addition to the movie.  They are cruel and evil, but I’m not sure what their goal is.  I guess they are pot farmers too and trying to snuff out competition or keep the law away?  But they kill the sheriff.  I figure that already puts them in really bad shape to succeed in any way, shape, or form.  Killing the kids aren’t going to get them anywhere either.  Weren’t the ticks enough?  I mean, sure, have some people who deserve to die horribly from ticks, but why have normal bad guys too?  I guess they help make the escape that much more treacherous, but the monster bugs were enough.

Wanna know how the main bad guy gets his?  Alfonso Ribeiro’s dead body splits open into a giant monster tick and eats him.  Why did that happen?  I cannot say, but it did, and that’s kind of awesome.

Eventually, the kids work together to escape before Carlton Tick busts in to eat them all.  They get in the van and take off.  Rome is almost eaten, but Seth Green, like the hero we all know him to be, takes a broom lit on fire and explodes that motherfucking tick.  The fire eventually gets to a giant tank and explodes the whole cabin…  But I have some questions…

Did that kill all the ticks?  Surely some ticks don’t get burned up and exploded.  I feel like the forest fire probably killed most of them, but it can’t completely eradicate all of them, right?  Oh, never mind…  Stinger ending shows the van in a junkyard back in Los Angeles with a tick egg falling off onto the ground from the undercarriage.  I guess we have to wait to see what happens in Ticks 2: Ticking Time Bomb.

Wait…  What?  That movie doesn’t exist?  Why not?  Oh…  Oh this movie probably wasn’t all that well received?  That’s a bummer.

This isn’t a bad movie.  The ticks are well made and the general monster bug thing in the wilderness giving problems to the city slicker campers is interesting.  It doesn’t have a very high body count – ticks only being the cause of four people and a dog dying out of a possible 12 people.  That said, this isn’t all that bad.  Seth Green is awesome.  Alfonso Ribeiro, as I mentioned earlier, is super awesome.  Ami Dolenz is hot, but doesn’t do a whole lot.  I’d say it’s a little weird with the pot and steroid element being introduced that causes the ticks to get so big, but it falls right in line with some bullshit B-Movie reason for the monster that we would have seen in the 1950s or 60s.  If you can watch it, do.  I think you might get a kick out of it, particularly with the recognizable cast in it.

Next week, I go back to the monster bug well for a movie from the 70s.  This time, instead of ticks, let’s talk about The Bees!  See you back here in seven days!

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