Ticks (1993) — Is this a bug hunt, sir?

“People, please refrain from further stupidity. You’re wasting my bullets.”

Justin’s rating: Don’t drink the bug juice!

Justin’s review: A few weeks ago at a scouting camping trip, my oldest son went out hiking and came back with a tick lodged in his arm. It was tiny and hadn’t started to gorge itself yet, but my boy yelled at us to get it out of him RIGHT that very INSTANT. There’s something about having a blood-sucking creature burrow itself into your body that drills right into our fear center.

So let’s give it to the makers of Ticks for identifying a prime suspect for a horror creature. I mean, granted, to make it a true threat, you’re either going to have to come up with a movie that multiplies the ticks a millionfold or blow them up in size — or both.

A very young, foppish-haired Seth Green plays Tyler, one of several “troubled” teens that are sent away on a wilderness trip as a kind of rehab program. It looks like a relaxing camping trip full of cheery memories and friendships forged around a s’more or two. That is, until local recluse guy — Clint Howard at his Clintiest — accidentally doses tick eggs with his pot farm. Of course, this mutates the ticks to plus-sized versions that start to feed on all sorts of unsuspecting victims.

Now, we all know that horror movies (especially creature features) are a penny a dozen these days — and almost always not worth your time unless you like bottom feeding for cinematic slime. Yet Ticks legitimately earned a reputation as being a solid cut above the crowd, even though it’s taken some time to build up that status.

First of all, Ticks does what so many horror movies don’t, which is to take the time to introduce and flesh out a cast of really likable protagonists. As the group heads out on their wilderness retreat, the movie gives them some room to develop and latch on to viewers’ affections. Seth Green is great, naturally, but he’s not the only one who brings out the charms and laughs. There’s trying-to-act-tough Panic (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Carlton!), a pair of frisky doofuses named Rome and Dee Dee, a cranky teen girl named Kelly, and incredibly shy Kelly (plus the two retreat leaders who are probably not long for this world due to how irresponsible they are).

The other factor that’s made Ticks a cult legend is that it put a whole lot of work into the practical effects of its titular creatures. Remember, this was before CGI cheapened everything on screen, so everything here is made up of props and puppets — and they look amazingly good, especially when they skitter across the sets. I never really thought about what a tick the size of a doberman would look like, but now thanks to this movie, I’ll be seeing it every night as I try to go to sleep.

What really pushes Ticks over the top is that it delves into outright body horror, with the ticks modifying the bodies of those they infest. The group is in the absolute worst place — this is the ticks’ home court — and it doesn’t help that there are some rando rednecks wandering around as well. The only way that any of them are going to make it out alive is to take the fight to the bugs themselves.

So please don’t lump Ticks in with all of those Syfy travesties. This is the real deal — gooey, scary, and funny in turns.

Didja notice?

  • This is a very aggressive way to start a friendship
  • I love this Breakfast Club-style of introducing the characters
  • Marihuana is the assassin of youth, according to posters
  • The only thing worse than stepping in  your own bear trap is being covered in baby mutant tick eggs
  • So… much… slime in this movie
  • Portable TV in 1993!
  • “Classic adults not believing kids. Thanks.”
  • That’s a way to get a bonfire going
  • Aww, the dog gets it
  • Dog autopsy. Worst show ever.
  • You could not pay me to walk into that pond
  • You can run with a knife in your knee
  • Bitten by giant ticks, beaten up by rednecks, and shot in the side. Carlton is having a Bad Day.
  • This guy really likes to be called “sir”

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