Saturday, September 4, 2010

#91: Ticks (Tony Randel, 1993)

I'm fortunate to live in a city with two of the greatest video stores in the country, with two locations each, that continue to thrive in the era of Netflix. Occasionally, however, something falls through the cracks. And that, my friends, is how I came to own a second-hand VHS copy of the straight-to-video shitsterpiece Ticks. Ticks is not a good movie. Director Tony Randel (not to be confused with Tony Randall) has no discernible directorial style and the screenwriter's knowledge of human behavior seems to have been gleaned entirely from after-school specials and 1980s sitcoms. Having said all that, Ticks brought me great joy. This is a fun movie, with the most bizarre casting this side of Skidoo.

Ticks stars Peter Scolari (Tom Hanks' co-star on Bosom Buddies), Seth Green, Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Ami Dolenz (daughter of The Monkees' Mickey Dolenz), veteran character actor Michael Medeiros, Ron Howard's more talented brother Clint Howard, and their father Rance Howard. This cast is nuts in theory and in practice, particularly Clint Howard and Alfonso Ribeiro.

Ticks opens with teenager Tyler (Seth Green) getting dropped off in inner-city Los Angeles by his drunk father. He encounters menacing street thug Panic ("They call me Panic, 'cause I never do!") (Alfonso Ribeiro), screenwriter Brent V. Friedman's bizarre idea of a typical black inner-city teenager. Soon, a van pulls up to pick up both teens. Turns out, Panic's street thug persona was mostly an act. Driving the van is Holly (Rosalind Allen), who runs a program for troubled inner-city teens. She takes them camping in the wilderness to broaden their horizons. She's joined by the oddly named Charles Danson (Peter Scolari) (rejected names for this character: Ted Dundy and John Wayne Dacy) and his surly teenage daughter Melissa (Virginya Keehne). The rest of this rag-tag group of troubled teens includes spoiled rich girl Dee Dee (Ami Dolenz), her vaguely Hispanic steroid-loving boyfriend Rome (Ray Oriel), and vaguely Asian selective mute Kelly (Dina Dayrit).

I'm not even done setting this shit up yet. Next, we meet marijuana farmer Clint Howard. It seems the steroid he and many other pot farmers in the region are using to embiggen their weed is also embiggening and mutating the region's wood tick population. These ticks are now about the size of a small hubcap, and their venom has hallucinogenic properties. Howard, whose small but memorable role contains a couple of great line readings, is the first to encounter the killer ticks. (Great line: After his gerbil gets shredded by a tick, he pulls the mangled corpse out of its cage and says "Dude, you're all messed up.") The troubled teens have a few run-ins with the ticks, as well as a couple of evil marijuana farmers: inbred hick Jerry (Michael Medeiros) and the vaguely British Sir (Barry Lynch) (yes, his character's only name is Sir) who likes to take out a comb and run it through his hair while talking about his evil plans. As if killer ticks, evil marijuana farmers, and the surly vagaries of troubled youth weren't enough to contend with, the region is prone to forest fires. Shit is about to get fucked up. (Bonus great line: After Panic's dog is butchered by a killer tick, the teary Panic says, "I always thought I would go in a drive-by shooting, but my dog ... MY DOG WOULD MAKE IT THROUGH ALIVE!" I'm paraphrasing from memory. The actual line is even funnier.)

There's not much to say about the filmmaking side of Ticks, though the special effects are surprisingly good. Director Tony Randel is most famous for Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and his other credits include a live-action version of Fist of the North Star, Assignment Berlin, a hair-growth infomercial, and the television series Power Rangers in Space and Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. Screenwriter Brent V. Friedman has written two other films on our list, The Resurrected and Necronomicon. His other credits include Hollywood Hot Tubs 2: Educating Crystal, American Cyborg: Steel Warrior, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and Foodfight!. As you can see, he specializes in films with a colon in the title.

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