Problem teens in Los Angeles join an inner-city wilderness project in and attempt to get back in touch with life’s priorities, led by do-gooders Holly and Charles. When they get to the campsite, they begin having problems adjusting to the wild life, particularly local marijuana growers using herbal steroids to accelerate plant growth, and the mutated ticks that the leaky steroid system has created.
If your dog ever brought ticks into your house you will be able to suspend your disbelief long enough to be a little creeped out by this movie, despite its b-movie qualities. Ticks are naturally scary animals; they are small, latch on to skin and suck blood like voracious vampires. It only stands to reason that the tick would be a creepy movie monster.
On the recommendation of Fangoria’s 101 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen I gave this seemingly mundane creature feature a chance. First of all Seth Green, Ami Dolenz, Clint Howard, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Alfonso Ribero as Panic , a streetwise thug make for a very entertaining b-movie cast. If you ever wanted to see Carton threaten someone with a switchblade, find this movie. This movie is one part creature feature and one part backwoods killer movie, when the local cash croppers show up to protect their marijuana. This is a great movie with loads of camp, but you’re gonna have to dig up a VHS copy to see it.
The ensemble is gathered together by Holly (Rosalind Lampert) a social worker who brings troubled teens together on camping trips in California. This year she is being accompanied by her boyfriend Charles (Peter Scolari) and his daughter, Melissa (Virginya Keehne). Also new to the group is Tyler (Seth Green), who is plagued with panic attacks especially when he is alone. Before we meet any of our unlucky teens we see just what goes on behind closed doors when Jarvis Tanner uses steroids and growth hormones on his marijuana crop. Little bits of the formula drip on the floor exposing whatever little critters may be in the barn including wood ticks.
While camping the group is greeted by the creepy backwoods farmers Sir and Jerry who warn them about the how overprotective the sharecroppers are around these parts. One night Panic’s dog is roaming around the woods and is attacked by a giant mutant tick which so far we have only seen inside their giant eggs, like the one hanging in their closet when they first enter the cabin. Panic is so distraught that he decides he is going to just hitchhike home to L.A. Charles and Tyler take Panic’s dog to the vet and after a short examination the vet attempts to take blood which is conspicuously missing from the dog.
After the third attempt at extracting blood the needle gets stuck on something inside the dog and it quickly starts darting around the room where it finally meets its demise under the foot of the veterinarian. The vet, Charles, and Tyler deduce that the abnormal size of the tick and the behavior of the dog are a result of the chemical steroids and hormones emanating from tick’s surface which cause hallucinations. Meanwhile, Panic is attacked by several ticks while hiking on the side of the road and has to dig them out with his knife, but is also experiencing hallucinations while the backwoods sharecroppers find him and proceed to pummel him. Obviously all of these events lead to the teens having to confront the killer ticks and Panic’s backwoods assailants.
I was skeptical of how well visually the ticks would come across, but they are the true charm behind this movie. They are quite clearly puppets and models, but as the ticks scurry across the floor we are treated to some genuine quality sound effects. When the ticks attach themselves to an actor’s face you can almost suspend your disbelief for a moment and imagine that giant bloodsucker clinging to your face. The best moments with the ticks are when they are under skin of Clint Howard. Ami Dolenz stumbles into the barn where Clint Howard has dozens of ticks living under his skin as he stumbles around demanding, “Shoot me, I’m Infesteeeed.” Then a giant tick pops out of his face and latches onto Dolenz. Clint Howard’s make-up in his scenes while infesteeeeed are phenomenal and are yet another testament to just how cool a b-movie can be. It is scenes like these that make people return to the old VHS tapes.
If you can’t stand cheesy creature effects stay away from this film, but for all true b-movie buffs this is not a film to miss.