Marabunta (1998)


aka Legion of Fire: Killer Ants; Marabunta: Terror In Burly Pines

USA. 1998.


Director – James Charleston, Teleplay – Linda Palmer & Wink Roberts, Producer – George Manasse, Photography – Don E. Fauntleroy, Music – Daniel Licht, Special Effects Supervisor – Craig E. Weiss, Production Design – Seven Nielsen. Production Company – The Producers Entertainment Group


Eric Lutes (Dr Jim Conrad), Julia Campbell (Laura Phillips), Mitch Pileggi (Police Chief Jeff Croy), Jeremy Foley (Chad Croy), Dallen Gettling (Bob Hazzard), Bill Osbourn (Officer Dave Blount), Patrick Fugit (Scott Blount), Don Shanks (Greywolf Murdock), H.E.D. Redford (Maynerd Perth)


Entomologist Jim Conrad travels to Burly Pines, Alaska on a fishing holiday. As soon as he arrives, Conrad comes across various animal and human bodies that have been found gored to the skeleton. He realises that the source of these is an army of South American Marabunta ants. The Marabunta are known to devour every living thing in their path. As Burly Pines is evacuated in the face of the Marabunta onslaught, Jim and a handful of locals fight to stop the spread of the ant menace.

Marabunta is a tv movie about killer ants. There have been various killer ant films before, including the excellent The Naked Jungle (1954), the underrated Phase IV (1974) and more traditional and cliched fare such as Panic at Lakewood Manor (1977), Swarm/Destination Infestation (2007) and The Hive (2008), as well as the inevitable giant enlarged ants films Them! (1954) and Empire of the Ants (1977). Marabunta does little to raise the genre in any way.

Marabunta opens on a dreadfully portentous narration a la The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971) – “this is not science-fiction, this is science fact. The story you are about to see could happen tomorrow.” But really Marabunta is not anything we have not seen before in a dozen 1970s Nature’s Revenge films. Its treatment here emerges as only dull and entirely cliched. The story seems to take forever to get to the main action with the ants.

When it does eventually get started, Marabunta seems to have been entirely contrived in terms of self-contained action set-pieces. The ants cause a helicopter carrying Eric Lutes and Julia Campbell to crash and they are forced to travel down a rapids in a canoe (where they very obviously become replaced by stunt doubles wearing the same hats they conveniently do); they face off against the ants with a flamethrower but their escape route is cut off whereupon the film fades to commercial break and when it resumes they, just like cliffhangers from the serial era, suddenly discover a canoe they had not seen before. Elsewhere a tractor slips out of gear and causes a barn to collapse, trapping a farmer and deputy inside; sheriff Mitch Pileggi has to drive his pickup truck in an obstacle course between explosions coming from gasoline-soaked antholes; Eric Lutes has to make an escape from the school by swinging down onto Mitch Pileggi’s pickup truck via the rope from the flagpole; at the climax, he has to abseil down a cliff and get back up, only for the winch to predictably jam just as the ants come; and finally he falls down a hillside just as the series of explosions to blow the dam occur and has to be airlifted off on the strut of a helicopter.

What is noticeable is what a small-scale catastrophe this is – we never see anything more of the disaster affecting the town, for instance, than a couple of people running from a house to their car and farmers rounding up herds. The climactic dam explosion and flood is surely one of the least convincing floods ever placed on screen, being limited to some shots of a swollen river and a single shot of water surging past the school. Indeed, there are more shots of the heroes flying off aboard the helicopter at the climax than there are of the flood and its aftermath.

Part 2 here:-

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