Watched November 24, 2013
Starring: Seth Green, Alfonso Ribeiro, Ami Dolenz, Rosalind Allen, Clint Howard.
I was incredibly excited to finally find this movie on DVD as it was just released in that format this year. I have no idea why it wasn't available earlier, but for the longest time I just couldn't find it, and it was too expensive as a used VHS. I first saw Ticks around the time in came out in the '90s and loved it. I have often regaled friends with the plot as I was so excited about the ridiculous concept and I couldn't wait to finally share it with them.
Outside of Los Angeles, in the national forest there are a ton of illegal marijuana farmers, including Jarvis Tanner (Clint Howard) who runs a pretty strange operation. He is an anti-government nut, based on his choice of radio stations, and he has a series of machines that fertilize his pot plants. The machines tend to ooze a lot of waste that leaks into the surrounding forest. As the waste has oozed into the surrounding environment it has effected the ticks eggs causing them to grow and mutate.
Meanwhile in LA, we meet Panic (Alfonso Ribeiro) a troubled teen, waiting by an underpass when Tyler (Seth Green) is dropped off by his dad. Panic intimidates Tyler but then Holly (Rosalind Allen) and Charles (Peter Scolari) arrive with a van full of kids. It turns out that it's an outward bound type set up where Holly and Charles take city kids into the woods for a weekend. The van is packed full of various stereotypes of troubled kids: the slut, the tough guy, the nerd, the quiet one, etc. Off they go into the woods.
They all arrive at the cabins where they're going to spend the weekend. Holly and Charles are terrible at teaching the kids camping skills. Charles's daughter Melissa (Virginya Keehne) takes Tyler for a walk; she brushes up against a tree and a giant mutant tick attaches itself to her back. Tyler gets if off, but they run back to camp freaking out. Charles doesn't make a big deal out of it. The campers get a strange visit from Jerry and Sir, who are marijuana farmers but play it off like they are making sure everyone is having a safe time in the woods. Panic brought his dog with him and later that night he finds it dead, Tyler and Charles take to the vet to figure out what happened, leaving everyone else at the camp. The vet tries to take a blood sample, but the dog has been drained. She jams a syringe into the stomach to let some gas out when she pulls a giant tick out. The tick now has a syringe stuck in it but is still alive and it crawls all over the office before they kill. Now Charles and Tyler know what's been attacking everyone so they head back to the camp to get everyone out of there. Panic ran away after his dog died and is now wandering in the woods when he gets bit by a tick. Luckily, he stole some steroids from the tough guy and takes those to try to survive.
A fire starts in the woods and it pushes all the ticks towards the cabins. The ticks are everywhere but at least the teens made it into the cabin. Sir and Jerry show up seeking refuge and they are reluctantly let in. The Panic shows up almost dead, because not only was he bit by a tick but earlier Sir and Jerry shot him. Panic dies in the cabin as the fire moves closer and the ticks continue to attack. Because of the steroids Panic mutates into a super gigantic tick that tries to kill everyone. When fire hits the ticks they immediately explode. Tyler takes a broom and lights it on fire and gets the van. All the ticks manage to get out of the cabin and into the van and tick Panic catches on fire and explodes. They all escape safely back to the city.
After my vague memories kept me excited for so many years, this movie it totally holds up. The tick effects are really gross and awesome, and there are lots of them. After knowing Alfonso Ribeiro only as cousin Carlton on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air it's hard to see him as a tough guy, but he does fine. His transformation into the gigantic mutant steroid ticks is disgusting and amazing. It is sad as the only black kid he dies, especially since there were way worse kids on that camping trip.