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PHASE IV - 2 Slimes
Rated PG
Copyright 1974 Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 1 November 2008

The Characters:  

  • James - He thinks that mathematics is the universal language. Kinda explains why he does not have a girlfriend, doesn't it?
  • Kendra - She has long, straight, dark hair and rides horses. Ah, those '70s girls...
  • Dr. Hubbs - Getting bitten by a super ant causes him to start turning into the Elephant Man. The ants eat him alive and what is left probably looks like the Elephant Man's skeleton. Before the doctor's remains were laid to rest, Michael Jackson spoke to the funeral home to express his interest in "acquiring" the skeleton.
  • Kendra's Grandparents - They might have had to walk uphill to school (both ways) during the Depression, but these two should have known better than to take a stroll through a poison blizzard.
  • The Ants - They are incredibly adaptable, able to bore through flesh and bone in seconds, and highly intelligent. Smarty ants!

Buy It!

The Plot: 

When an unprecedented cosmic event occurs, the world panics. Housewives worry that their skin is going to fall off, survivalists fill their waterbeds with sunscreen and sleep under them, and Catholics flood the confessionals. Nothing appears to happen due to the mystery in outer space, but something did happen. It was just too small to notice.

In this case, "unprecedented" means the shallow depths of the pool of human knowledge.

The cosmic conjunction affected some ants. No longer mere insects, the tiny animals are now super ants! They stop their miniscule bickering and create the ant equivalent of the United Nations. Flawless cooperation becomes something practiced by all ants, not just within individual colonies. Unfortunately, watching a bunch of anything cooperating gets boring (unless they are holding hands and singing), so the scenes of the ant utopia become a little tedious.

Yes, I spent five minutes watching ants simply being themselves. It was interesting for part of that time. I remember when observing ant activities could keep me spellbound for hours. What, you cannot imagine watching ants all afternoon? Weren't you ever a kid?

Something else the ants gain from their exposure to whatever it was that happened in outer space is the ability to chew through anything really fast. Dr. Hubbs and James are assigned to investigate reports of an ant army assembling in remote areas. They discover an abandoned housing development. The residents were driven out by the ants, and the structures arbitrarily disassembled. However, the most amazing thing that the researchers encounter is the anthill skyscrapers. More than anything else, those looming structures drive home the point that humanity is suddenly faced with the prospect of sharing the Earth with a bunch of very smart ants.

What if...what if regular everyday ants are smart because they do not build skyscrapers? What if Donald Trump is the idiot?

To study the ants, the men need to understand the ants. They erect a futuristic domed facility near the insect metropolis. Unfortunately, the ants ain't talkin'. Everything the men do is unproductive at eliciting a response. Well, Dr. Hubbs has an answer for that: he shoots at the earthen spires. What in the heck is this man thinking? He discovers a race of super ants that can bore through sheep and build skyscrapers, and his plan for establishing a dialog with them is to shoot at their abodes? Talk about inviting total destruction. Leave the ants alone!

As a race, we humans are so dense. Whenever we encounter something new, our response is either to test if it is edible, or to poke it with a stick to see if it is going to bite us.

Annihilating their towers attracts the ants' attention (along with getting them angry), but the researchers are safe inside of their dome. The ants express their indignation upon Kendra's homestead. Wisely choosing flight over flight, the frantic hairless apes flee from the ants in their rusty relic of America's automotive industry. The farmers try to seek refuge at the silver dome. Unfortunately, they arrive as the ants attempt to attack the scientific redoubt. The farmers are killed by a spray of poison that Dr. Hubbs triggers to repel the ants' advance. Kendra survives by seeking shelter in an abandoned storm cellar. The poison wipes out countless insects.

The domed research facility is a cool design, but it still looks like a plain old square metal warehouse on the inside.

One of the movie's most effective scenes "humanizing" (I'm trying not to make that sound like an insult) the ants takes place as a worker struggles to return to the colony with a sample of the humans' yellow poison. The ant agonizingly drags the deadly chunk toward the nest, but eventually succumbs to the lethal chemical. Another ant takes up the relay, and pulls the sample a few inches closer to the objective before expiring. The cycle repeats until, at last, the toxic specimen reaches the Queen. She immediately eats it in toto!

Whoa, that is different than how matriarchs usually operate. Ask the Brits; they'll tell you. If the servant dies after sampling the key lime dessert, then the Queen will not be tasting her tart tonight.

Having ingested the yellow poison, the queen begins laying eggs of the same color. Holy cow, that poison is just like St. Patrick's day beer! These new yellow ants are immune to the poison. That night while the humans sleep, the ants are hard at work in the "no ants land" around the dome. Come morning, James discovers that the ants have erected a ring of solar reflectors around the dome. If the ants cannot mount a frontal assault, they will disable the threat by focusing sunlight on it until the temperature becomes unbearable.

All you a-holes with magnifying glasses: stop giving the ants ideas.

The ants do not make the mistake of relying solely on solar power. Ant sappers infiltrate the dome to conduct sabotage operations aimed at incapacitating the air conditioning. This is, of course, successful. You cannot keep ants out of anything. Especially not after Kendra (who joined the researchers in the dome) smashes an ant farm filled with super ants. She was a little angry with the insects. Assassinating their grandfather and grandmother is arguably the best way to get on anyone's bad side.

Under siege in their sweltering dome, the anxiety-infused trio starts coming unglued (socially as a group and mentally as individuals). Poor Kendra thinks the ants will leave the men alone if she becomes a sacrificial peace offering. James believes that the only way to survive is to establish communication by faxing geometric shapes back and forth with the ants. Dr. Hubbs just wants to put his shoes back on. Near its end, the film develops a bare foot fetish. Kendra sneaks out to offer herself to the ants, and she does it barefoot. She is taken hostage by the insect activists. Dr. Hubbs never does manage to get his shoes on; he stumbles outside sans foot accoutrements and falls into a pit. The ants have had a bone to pick with the good doctor ever since his "yellow snow" joke; they pick his skeleton clean. Ouch!

Alone at last, James decides to go on an all-out offensive. He dons a protective suit and mask, but strips all of it off, including his boots and socks, before reaching the heart of the ants' empire. Ambling miles across ant-infested terrain without anything on your feet is insane.

What is up with all the bare feet?

James' astounding discovery in the anthill is a bit anticlimactic, and I have no idea what the ending means. It is supposed to be an explanation. All I ended up with was more questions. Well, questions and a burning urge to make the "dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant" jokes that I had been fighting to suppress for more than an hour. Did you notice that I resisted that impulse? Not one "dead ant" joke in the whole review. No, not a one.


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Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Bathroom privacy is an indisputable sign of advanced intelligence.
  • Ants are the ones who have been making all of those crop circles.
  • In the old days scientists had to be geniuses just to remember what switches they needed to turn on.
  • The first computer game was "Jump Rope" - not "Pong."
  • Don't eat green snow.
  • Never, ever borrow an entomologist's turkey baster.
  • The correct spelling was "Antlantis."
  • Yellow insects are immune to yellow poison.
  • Opera is the worst thing that ever happened to solar power.
  • Never hire a praying mantis HVAC technician.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 1 min - I see a teddy bear face. What do you see?
  • 9 mins - Something has to happen now, surely.
  • 17 mins - In a few seconds the ants will open fire with their 9mm flak cannons.
  • 20 mins - For some reason I am craving a PEZ.
  • 23 mins - The ants are advancing with alarming alacrity.
  • 25 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A HORSE!
  • 33 mins - Ants asphyxiating in acetone!
  • 53 mins - Great almighty, it's ant Armageddon!
  • 58 mins - Notice that all the ants are attired in black, because they are in mourning.
  • 61 mins - That is the "Hot Indicator" light. It blinks when it gets hot inside the research dome. Useful.
  • 63 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST THE LAYETTE BINS!
  • 72 mins - Along with about four million super ants. What is your point?

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

FileDialog
Green Music Note phaseiv1.wav James: "While I was playing around with number theory at the University, Hubbs was already onto something. Ordinary ants of different species were doing things that ants don't do: meeting, communicating - apparently making decisions."
Green Music Note phaseiv2.wav Dr. Hubbs: "This is not a controlled experiment. In our judgment, another occurrence in this area is highly probable, but we cannot command the ants to appear."
Radio Contact: "Well, is there something you can do to hurry them up?"
Dr. Hubbs: "We have been thinking about that..."
Green Music Note phaseiv3.wav James: "Listen Hubbs, I came down here for a couple of weeks of science in the sun. I did not sign up for a war against a bunch of God-damned ants! And furthermore, why'd you leave the truck out there in the first place?"
Dr. Hubbs: "Bait."
Green Music Note phaseiv4.wav James programming the computer to talk mathematics to the ants.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 

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 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipphaseiv1.mpg - 5.6m
Dr. Hubbs is overjoyed that the ants are going to use solar energy to destroy the humans' scientific fortress. Sounds like a smashing good time! James is not so sure that having a horde of super ants mad at them is a good thing.

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Comments:Write CommentPages: 1 [2]
Re: Phase IV
Reply #9. Posted on November 03, 2008, 08:41:35 PM by Torgo
I had seen this flick years ago but didn't know what it was called. 
Re: Phase IV
Reply #10. Posted on November 09, 2008, 03:52:19 AM by J.D.
Oh this movie is awesome!
Re: Phase IV
Reply #11. Posted on November 10, 2008, 02:56:20 PM by Neville
I saw it on my late teens, found it absolutely fascinating. I need to watch this again.
Re: Phase IV
Reply #12. Posted on November 14, 2008, 06:01:05 PM by BoyScoutKevin
When I saw this, and I saw only the ending to it, I found it very cerebral. More so than most films. I don't know whether I liked it or not, as I said, I didn't see all of it. One of these days I'm going to have to see all of it, to see whether I liked it not.
Re: Phase IV
Reply #13. Posted on April 15, 2009, 07:50:59 PM by BZ
OMG, thank you for this hilarious, insightful and totally spot-on review!  I haven't seen this movie for about 20 years, and I remember it as though it were yesterday.  Kinda just sticks with you!  I agree that it is a forgotten classic, as we all remember it so well, and apparently so would anyone else that watches it.
And yes, D.T. is an idiot!
Re: Phase IV
Reply #14. Posted on August 29, 2009, 03:02:54 PM by Flu-Bird
Can never be as good as THEM this classic giant bug movie is the best
Re: Phase IV
Reply #15. Posted on October 11, 2011, 11:48:48 AM by TheDoomMachine
Unlike the majority of regulars here (at least I sort of gleaned this from the comments on the various films I've seen listed here), I did not see too many of these classics as a child, but am coming at them now with the perspective of a thirty-year-old who still feels as on fire with zeal and wonder as he did in his b-deprived youth. Anyway, I just saw this one a couple of months back and am glad to see it's reviewed here! Andrew, your review cracked me up, and I agree with what I perceive as the sort of unspoken sentiment that you and some of the other commenters here have that this movie is a little full of itself and probably doesn't have as much to say as its creators think it does...nevertheless, I have to say I love this movie! I go in for this type of flick because of the moodiness factor, really, and I think this one has it in spades...atmosphere, a certain eerieness or whatever that you could often find in the more "serious" 70s science fiction movies. It reminded me of Andromeda Strain a bit but it's a lot less boring, a lot more otherworldly. I think the ant scenes are amazing and theyr'e really aided by the creepy electronic score. The horse-killing scene was unexpectedly intense and I don't know if it was just me, but I normally kind of dislike child actors and yet I thought the girl in this one was really well acted. I'm not sure if I entirely approve of the ending but there's a certain cleverness to it...did anyone else notice that the title cards in the film show phases "I", "II" and "III" but the fourth phase is yet to come? I thought that was pretty neat.
Pages: 1 [2]
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