It Came From The Desert (2018) Review

Released on DVD tomorrow and based on the video game of the same name, this cheerful and peppy indie adaptation makes the most of its limited resources and makes a credible pitch for best video game movie adaptation since “Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle”.

When a group of teenage motocross contenders head to the New Mexico desert to party it up, they soon discover something strange lurking in a nearby abandoned underground military base: mutated ants! Although there are only a few ants, its because they require alcohol to reproduce (much like the more careless teenagers) and when the ants interrupt the kegger, it’s up to the survivors to uncover the secrets behind a 1950s meteorite crash and save the world from alien invasion.

This Finnish/ Spanish production should delight old school gamers from the late ’80s and early ’90s who may have spent hours battling giant insects in the Cinemaware video game. For a frugal indie, it’s not short on ambition, featuring a loving homage to the black and white B-movie creature features of the 1950s with some very modern motocross action. With giant ants to contend with (the movie’s a little vague on whether they’re alien ants or alien DNA spliced into regular old Earth ants with a dash of spider), the movie throws in some amusingly self-aware references to modern-day classics such as “Jurassic Park” and even fellow tongue-in-cheek throwback “Eight Legged Freaks”, our heroes find themselves mixing up a heady cocktail of horror, adventure and humour at their desert party.

Co-writer/ Director Marko Mäkilaakso makes the most of the Spanish desert terrain (the interiors were mostly shot in Finland), creating an atmospheric and ethereal backdrop for the teenage shenanigans and insectoid antics.

Like the game its based on, the movie faithfully offers a mix of shoot-‘em-up and puzzle solving action and while the script is occasionally clunky (potentially straining to remain loyal to the source material), the cast make it work. Vanessa Grasse and Harry Lister Smith make for likeable leads but its Alex Mills (“Vikings”, “David Brent: Life On The Road” who’s a particular stand-out, playing Motocross champion Lukas as a younger, dumber “Starship Troopers” Johnny Rico. There’s the requisite gentle love triangle and everyone learns some valuable lessons about themselves and each other as they thwart the end of the world.

You can’t ask for much more from a creature feature and “It Came From The Desert” knows its audience and its strengths well. And, as someone who’s spent much of this summer so far battling Formicidae foes of my own in and around the house, this a fun way to spend an hour and a half relaxing after dusting the garden with ant powder. Don’t hit menu as soon as the film ends, either. Keep watching for the end credits which feature, amongst other things, a play through of the original game itself.

6/10 

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