Movie Review: It Came from the Desert

By Justin Prinsloo 24.08.2018

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It Came from the Desert (UK Rating: 15)

Any director that helms a film based on a videogame is exceptionally bold. Game adaptations have a poor track record in cinematic history, and the precise reason why they tend to be bad is mercilessly unclear. Marko Mäkilaasko, the brave man who took on directorship of It Came from the Desert, knows this. Mäkilaasko doesn't care; he knows adherents of this subgenre tend to be subpar, and so in an act of wisdom he embraces this fact rather than attempt to overcome it. Unfortunately, the resulting movie is perhaps not the enjoyable romp he hoped it would be.

It Came from the Desert - out now on DVD via Thunderbird Releasing - serves as a sequel to the 1989 videogame of the same name. It's set decades after the original in the present day, and this is the first major pitfall of the film: the contemporary setting detracts from the arcade-y feel of the source material, and not even the occasional bursts of synth music or references to classic sci-fi horror contemporaries like Alien can redeem it. Nevertheless, it pays a decent homage to the videogame its based upon, going so far as to use the same narrated opening sequence.

It's clear from the get-go that It Came from the Desert is going to be silly, which would be instantly off-putting if it wasn't also apparent that it doesn't take itself seriously. The soundtrack is obnoxious, the acting is poor, and the script is unapologetically tacky, but the playful daftness has a certain charm.It Came from the Desert will never stack up against great cinema moments, and the film takes advantage of this in order to be as fun as it possibly can.


 
Nevertheless, the plot is fairly uninspiring. A group of teens descends on the New Mexico desert for a debauched party to celebrate the motocross victory of dirt-bike whizz Lukas (played by Alex Mills). He's popular and everyone seems to love him, but in typical genre fashion, there's no discernible reason why. Alongside Lukas is his intelligent best friend, Brian (Harry Lister Smith), who seems to be nothing more than a pet for Lukas, modding his bike to help him win races and aiding him in navigating a world he is too dense to understand.

Anyway, the clutch of drunken adolescents is set upon by a swarm of giant ants who have escaped from a nearby research facility where they were genetically modified with alien DNA. Here's where it gets predictable: Lukas and Brian, the dynamic duo that they are, must save their cohorts - and Brian's love interest Lisa (Vanessa Grasse) - from certain annihilation. It can be eerie enough in a 1950s-esque way, but it never truly delivers the thrills that modern Hollywood is capable of, by dint of some poorly-timed humour and unestablished stakes.

It Came from the Desert is certainly a leave-your-brain-at-the-door affair and it shamelessly acknowledges this. It would be easy to pick apart its myriad of shortcomings, from the poor continuity between shots to the casual glorification of misogyny, but the production team seems to be aware of all the film's inadequacies. Indeed, these pitfalls are even played up in an effort to make this a 'so bad it's good' affair (think Sharknado).

The point of It Came from the Desert is to provide audiences with the chance to look past the cursed videogame-movie subgenre in order to take an entry at face value. The film engages that primal desire humanity has for mindless entertainment, and then allows viewers to go about their lives as though it never happened - and hoping it never does again.

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

While It Came from the Desert knows it's not winning any honours at the Oscars and just wants to show us a good time, its failure to leave a lasting impression, and its reckless tendency towards dude-humour, leave much to be desired.

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