The title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Instead of reptiles, we have ants. Hey, don’t laugh this movie off and make with the bad Samuel L. Jackson imitations. Besides, this flick is more of the “Uh, excuse me. But I want these goshdarned ants off this goshdarned plane” variety.
And, as this 2019 New York Post article shows, it really happened on a United Airlines Italy-to-U.S flight. And there’s nothing like a real “nature run amok”* event to breathe new life into an old TV movie. And besides, this eco-terror romp is directed by George Mendeluk, he of my fondly remembered, pre-cable TV movies Stone Cold Dead (1979) and The Kidnapping of the President (1980).
It’s good to visit with you again, George, my friend.
Utterly annoying Caribbean vacationers and honeymooners from the Canadian Campus of the Ed Wood School of Thespian Arts—the type of “skilled actors” that leave you rooting for the little lost rain forest ants—are on a return trip from to Miami from Columbia. The cardboard cast soon discovers that a mutated, “super-organism parasite-hive” of deadly bullet ants burrowed its way into a human host—who subsequently “Aliens” them up on the plane. And the ants swarm from his every orifice and make a run for the air vents. And they turn the plane’s electrical system into dinner. And they kill people in the bathrooms because, well, even in the throes of death, one still has to pinch a loaf—ants be damned.
Luckily an entomologist (Jessalyn Gilsig) with a whiny daughter (for the human relationship drama) and a hunky U.S sky marshal (Antonio Sabato, Jr. (for the romantic angle) just happen to be on the plane—that no country will allow to land for fear of spreading an ant plague. (Make a note: Mutant Columbian rain forest ants BAD: don’t fly them in under any circumstances. COVID-19 Coronavirus good: load ’em up, land ’em, stock pile ’em at an army base. Why? Because we think The Walking Dead really happening would be, like cool ‘n stuff.)
U.S TV fans will recognize Jessalyn Gilsig from her starring roles in the series Boston Public, NYPD Blue, Friday Night Lights, Nip/Tuck, Heroes, Glee, and, most recently, ABC-TV’s Scandal.
While ex-daytime TV actor and former Playgirl-Calvin Klein model Antonio Sabato, Jr. has done a commendable job making his bones on TV series such as Earth 2 and Melrose Place, and his excellent portrayal of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas in 2009’s Drifter: Henry Lee Lucas, we, the staff at B&S About Movies, always go back to the fact that his dad is our beloved Italian exploitation actor Antonio Sabato, Sr. from Seven Blood Stained Orchids and Escape from the Bronx. (Sabato, Jr. recently made the news regarding his industry-wide blacklisting for his Republican political beliefs and not being able to find work, having to sell off his possessions and take work in the construction field to make ends meet. You can read more about it at The Blaze and The Washington Times.)
Since this Canadian TV movie has a strong female lead, it became quick programming fodder for the female-centric cable channel Lifetime in 2007—and having a “hot” Italian-born Sabato as a leading man doesn’t hurt its female fan base. This eco-terror flick eventually rolled out as a TV movie and direct-to-DVD feature in the overseas markets from 2008 to 2015 under the titles Swarm, Deadly Swarm, and its original title, Destination: Infestation. Of course, courtesy of the United 2019 incident, it was reimaged once again with a new exploitive-marketing title, so as to align it with Samuel L. Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane for its free-online streaming debut on TubiTv.
You’ve seen worse. But I’d still rather watch a “killer bee” movie, such as The Bees, The Deadly Bees, Killer Bees, The Swarm, and Terror out of the Sky. Hell, even Locusts.
Eh, but still, Mendeluk is a long ways down the road on his extensive, 70-plus Canadian and U.S. resume that began with the highly-rated TV flicks Stone Cold Dead (starring the awesome Richard Crenna and Paul Williams from Phantom of the Paradise, Smokey and the Bandit) and (the aforementioned-linked) The Kidnapping of the President (starring the always welcomed Hal Holbrook and William Shatner). Mendeluk’s most recent work—with, yet again cable-dumb criminals and annoying heroine-damsels—was the 2017 Lifetime damsel-in-distress flick The Wrong Babysitter (that’s appearing on various streaming services and Smart TV platforms in late 2022).
You can rent Stone Cold Dead on Vudu/trailer. The Kidnapping of the President is available for rent on Amazon Prime, but there’s a pretty clean VHS rip for free on You Tube. You can watch Ants on a Plane for free—with commercial breaks—on TubiTv, or pretty clean DVD-rip without commercials on You Tube.
* Back in January 2020, we went crazy reviewing nature-strikes-back films with our “Nature Run Amok” week. Here’s the full list of those reviews so you can catch up.
Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
Cruel Jaws (1995)
Flu Birds (2008)
The Giant Leeches (1959)
Invasion of the Animal People (1959)
Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973)
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Kiss of the Tarantula (1975)
Monster Shark (1984)
Monster Wolf (2010)
War of the Insects (1968)
Night of the Cobra Woman (1972)
Play Dead (1981)
Sharks’ Treasure (1975)
The Uncanny (1978)
The Wasp Woman (1959)
Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1985)
And there’s even more “nature run amok” films with our December 2018 shark tribute week, “Bastard Pups of Jaws,” which features everything imaginable—from 1976’s Grizzly to 1977’s Orca, from 1979’s The Great Alligator all the way out to Renny Harlin’s 1999 shark romp, Deep Blue Sea.
About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.