Octoblur 2015 - #16: Ticks (1993)
Written by dorrk
Octoblur: If the quality doesn't scare you the quantity will.
There are a handful of comic monster movies that really resonate with me, but for the most part I find this particular subgenre of horror extremely bland. Even when I find one mildly enjoyable — like Eight Legged Freaks, or Tremors — the mixture of broadly-acted stereotypes and knowingly quirky creature effects rarely keeps a lasting grip on me. the best comic monster movies — Gremlins,Feast — either take care to build interesting and somewhat atypical characters prior to the mayhem, or embrace a spirit of wild anarchy that is enhanced rather than overshadowed by the showcase of neat puppets and make-up effects. Ticks has plenty of the latter, but its setting and characters are so anodyne that it rarely engaged me.
An eclectic group of teen misfits is improbably assembled for a seemingly pointless "Outward Bound"-style therapy getaway, but their campsite is adjacent to a marijuana farm where experiments in botany have had the unfortunate side effect of creating a race of giant mutant wood ticks. There's certainly some fun in this premise — there are, as expected, waves of attacks by a mob of skittering creepy-crawlies, some gushing bloody wounds, sticky and oozing larval sacs, and even a giant steroid-fueled man-bug hybrid — but there's a deflating dearth of personality behind it all. Decent comic actors like Seth Green, Peter Scolari, Clint Howard, Ami Dolenz and Alfonso Ribeiro seem game for a movie like this to break out into total craziness at any time, but right from the start with the canned set-up and the introduction of several uninspired character tropes, Ticks appears to be aiming right at the low-middle, never investing fully in its premise or its cliches, but rather ticking off the time until the next mildly gross creature effect.
Ticks is passably diverting, but ultimately feels like the plot and characters were constructed merely as macguffins, with the special effects alone motivating their existence. This complaint could be made about many sub-genres of horror, but the darkness and terror that I find fun in horror is outside the scope of what is, at heart, a kids' movie loaded with goopy gore and a self-conscious aversion to taking itself seriously. Ticks is caught impotently in the middle of the tension between its sitcom-ish tone and its horror elements, with the former undercutting the effectiveness of the latter but not offering any substance in exchange.
Trailer for Ticks (1993)
Stay tuned here and on twitter @Popgap to see what I choose to inflict upon myself this Octoblur!
Here are my Letterboxd lists for 2014 & 2013: