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.