Phase IV (1974)

A cosmic event causes ants in the Arizona desert to become hyper-intelligent, leading to two scientists, Hubbs and Lesko, set up a research base to observe and study the ants. Unfortunately for them, the ants are full of bloodlust and desire to conquer the living world.

There are clear parallels in Phase IV to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), but this film lacks the vision and quality of Kubrick’s masterpiece. The film is divided into two realms – of the humans above ground and of the ants below. It is the filming of the ants that impresses here. Cinematographer Dick Bush does masterful work with the close-ups of the ants, as we see them navigate their tunnels and conspire with each other.

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The scientists Hubbs and Lesko stand before the monolithic ant columns.

There is one particularly memorable scene, where the ants carry out funeral rites on their dead. The fallen ants are lined up in rows, in what can only be a military cemetery, the surviving ants mourn on the sides, over a slow guitar riff and organ soundtrack. The ants, although indistinguishable from one another, have real personality.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film falls flat in its script and acting. However, the finale enjoyably subverted my expectations, just not enough to pick up what had come before.

Welcome to Leith (2015)

Welcome to Leith offers a clear account of the trials and tribulations of one small, remote town in North Dakota, USA, as their community is threatened by the presence of white supremacist Nazis.

The infamous Nazi Craig Cobb, well known to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, selected Leith to become a haven for like minded racists. By inviting other white supremacists to Leith he intended to take over the town through its own council and democratic system.

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Cobb and fellow Nazis intimidating the residents of Leith.

The documentary tracks the conflict and rising tensions between Cobb and his allies, and the towns people, showing footage from large demonstrations to smaller confrontations. Here the film is at its best, collecting footage and photos from the residents present. However, it offers little depth in its insight into the workings of Cobbs mind, or the community with which he is affiliated. Instead we are presented purely with events, with no comment or judgement from the film makers. Given the subject matter, I can’t help but be frustrated by this.

While this was an interesting watch, it is nothing remarkable. The racist thugs shown are beyond comprehension, but ultimately are small timers in the face of the systematic racism that plagues America today.