Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ticks (1993)

Reviewed By: Billy (with footnotes by JM)

The early 1990s straight-to-video boom was a wonderful time; just look at the previews that show up on my VHS copy of Ticks. We’ve got a movie about a psychic cop called Scannercop, some kind of Terminator-meets-Robocop rip-off called Apex, and the all-time classic Night of the Demons 2. There will never be another time like it; no matter what you were renting, you knew you were in for something entertaining.

Take the first few minutes of Ticks, for example: we’ve got Seth Green, looking remarkably similar to how he’d look ten years later in bigger-budget fare (how old is this guy?), we get the guy who plays preppy Carlton on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” as a tough kid in shades and a trenchcoat wielding a switchblade (and named Panic![i]), and then there’s Ami Dolenz as a rich-bitch wearing Jackie-O sunglasses and a headscarf. Could this be the greatest movie ever made? Possibly[ii].

This motley crew of 90s[iii] teens is heading to some kind of wilderness camp for troubled youth, which was the 90s straight-to-video equivalent of leading a naked gladiator into the lion ring. Meanwhile, some crazy guy in a shack is attacked by what appear to be rubber starfish, but are apparently the ticks of the title. Peter Scolari – who always kind of seemed to me to be a poor man’s Rick Moranis, which is fitting as this movie has a distinct Honey, I Blew Up The Ticks-vibe – is the camp counselor, and gets some awesome voice-overs about his fears that “the group won’t bond.” A few scenes later, Peter and his girlfriend are having sex while the kids start a fire outside. So, apparently not supervising a group of delinquents while they attempt to torch a forest is a good bonding technique.

Eventually the ticks start running wild, coming from some big gooey egg sacs and scurrying across the ground to attack Panic’s dog. This gives us a wonderful scene where street thug Panic actually cries over his lost dog and then runs away from camp. Seeing little Carlton from “Fresh Prince” trying to act upset over a dog is a huge highlight of the movie, although I personally preferred his performance on a (washed-up) celebrity version of the game show “The Weakest Link” a few years back when he got super competitive and also looked like he was going to cry when he was almost beat by Danny from “Who’s The Boss?”.

Ami Dolenz, meanwhile, attempts to play against type as stuck-up Dee Dee Davenport (the greatest spoiled rich girl name ever), but kind of comes across like her character in Pumpkinhead II with PMS[iv]. Ami is just too sweet-faced to be taken seriously as a bitch; even when she was possessed by the bad girl in Witchboard 2 you wanted to give her a hug and be her best friend. Anyway, Ami ends up face to face with the hick in the shack from the beginning, whose throbbing face explodes a tick onto her neck.

So…blah blah blah…a couple of pot growers accidentally set their “cash crop” on fire, which sends the ticks straight for the camp, and all of the characters end up trapped inside one cabin a la The Birds. Except instead of talented character actors being terrorized by real, menacing animals, we’ve got Seth Green and Ami Dolenz screaming as big latex bugs climb up the walls. The ticks actually kind of look like hermit crabs, which I personally love, so I was definitely rooting for them. And the really nice thing about this movie is that it doesn’t even bother trying to really explain where the giant ticks come from. Eventually, they get inside Panic and (in a scene cribbed directly from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4) he becomes one giant tick. Amazingly, Panic is the only one of the group to die…now, I’m not complaining about this, because if I had to choose one character to die off, it would be him. But…are you telling me the other little a-holes deserved to live? What is this, a Sci-Fi Channel original movie?

Anyway…the camp blows up, the ticks die, and the young kids escape. At the end, we get a shot of one of those eggsacs falling out of a car in the city…so, of course, the ticks will eventually take over the world. Personally, in a world where Ami Dolenz and Seth Green are allowed to live, I’m fine with that. The rubber ticks gave the best performances in the movie anyway…so why shouldn’t they take over the world?


[i] He is nicknamed Panic because he never does. What does than mean about Braveheart? I guess that means he is really a scaredy cat. Or at least an anti-Semite who refers to women as “sugar tits”
[ii] It’s not… it’s not even the greatest Ami Dolenz movie. That honor goes to Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway
[iii] Motley Crue of the 90s briefly featured John Corabi on vocals. Most people would agree that this was a low point in the band’s career. I do not. The low point came when Vince Neil returned
[iv] Interestingly, the full title of that movie is Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings. Make your own PMS joke

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