It came from Finland – to invade you! It Came From the Desert is the latest schlock retro horror comedy from the country that brought you evil Santas and killer bunnies.
Some horror movie concepts are traditional, some are original, and then there are the crazy-ass twisted ones. It Came From the Desert belongs in the latter category, being a live action sequel to the 1989 video game of the same name. At the same time, the film is also an homage to 1950s monster movies and B-grade action films, which is not surprising since the game was inspired by the mutant-ant classic Them! (1954) and It came from outer space (1953). The film is a Finnish-UK-Canadian co-production, but is primarily a Finnish idea and concept, having its director and some producers from Finland.
The pulpy nostalgic action tribute features rival motocross heroes and heroines, kegger parties in the desert, secret underground military bases, romantic insecurities and of course giant ants. The story shows us what happens when teens arrives in the desert for a a bike race (and beer) which goes as wrong as it can when “alien enhanced” giant ants join the game. The film is not a direct adaption of the video game, but a sequel, which gave the director more freedom to add bits and ideas.
The idea came several years ago when director Marko Mäkilaakso pitched the idea to Finnish producers at the Berlin film festival. Mäkilaakso had been a fan of the video game in his teens, and had written a script in part inspired by Eight legged freaks (2002). The original script had giant spiders in it, but when the video game company Cinemaware agreed to licence the game to a film, ants became the predators. In 2015 the film was sold to financers at the Cannes film festival in France under the banner Nordic Genre Invasion. Mäkilaakso also co-wrote the film with Hank Woon (Age of Dinosaurs, 2013) and Trent Haaga (68 Kill, 2017), with Tero Kaukomaa (Iron Sky, 2012) as one of the executive producers.
The 90 minute film was shot in Finland and in Spain, in the Almeria region where many big-budget action and fantasy films had been shot before, such as the Indiana Jones and Conan movies. The shoot combined practial effects, stunts and CGI, with a Finnish motocross group providing vehicle stunts, supported by Spanish stunt people who had been working on Game of Thrones. For creatures, a physical ant was built but CGI from a Finnish company called Roger completed the creature effects. Mäkilaakso, whose first film relationship was with Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) when he was a child, previously directed the feature War of the Dead (2011), the SyFy premiering Deadly Descent: The Abominable Snowman (2013) as well as music videos, commercials, TV series and award-winning short films.
It Came From the Desert has received many favourable reviews. Some of them are:
- Fright Fest London: “Get ready for the pulp action horror mutant monster movie of the year! Smartly scripted, extremely funny and very creepy, with terrific special effects in homage to Ray Harryhausen.”
- HeyUGuys: “…an unapologetically silly pastiche that nails its audience very early on and rarely ever falters, delivering a seriously entertaining, low-rent fireworks display of a modern monster movie.”
- Dread Central: “…everything that I, or any other fan of monster cinema, could ever ask for […] It would be easy to write off It Came from the Desert as yet another sleazy Syfy-style monster movie, but it’s so much more than that. This might also be a bold claim to make, but I’m going to go ahead and say that It Came from the Desert could also be the best filmed on a videogame ever made.”
- Starburst Magazine: “Effectively fusing elements from all manner of classic giant bug films from the past […] the film doesn’t waste time with its intention. […] Miles and Smith evoke memories of Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward in cult favourite Tremors and, like Grasse, are promising British talent.”
- Bloody Flicks: “The action scenes are fun and gory and with the script playing for laughs rather than scares It Came from the Desert is the perfect monster movie to casual enjoy without taking too seriously.”
- The Hollywood News: “Camp, cheesy and oddly charming, It Came From the Desert is a rare modern b-movie that is an absolute viewing pleasure. It’s such an entertaining watch that it should be watched with as big an audience as possible for maximum fun.”
- MovieZine: “Playful and funny but the action sequences are still energized. The tempo is high and the special effects are unusually well made, and just about enough of inside jokes and meta comedy, without getting silly. In spite of the low budget the craftmanship is nice, with grand music and glorious desert environments.” Rated 4 of 5.
Mäkilaakso explained his fascination for B movies to Bloody Disgusting last year: -I love B-movies and mainstream filmmakers who give homages to those in their works, like Joe Dante, John Landis, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg etc. There’s something so pure and honest about B-movies, and even though done with tight budgets you can see and feel that the makers put their hearts and souls into making the movie. That’s really inspiring!
The film premiered at festivals last year but is making its way to consumers on disc and via streams this spring. The current distribution schedule looks like this:
- USA: Own or rent it digitally from May 29th, buy the DVD on June 5th (distribution by The Orchard).
- France: DVD available from May 22nd.
- Canada: Theatrical premiere on May 11th at the Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa. DVD out on May 11th from Raven Banner Entertainment.
- Germany: Already available on DVD and BluRay, available to stream from Amazon Prime and Maxdome.
- Austria: Already available on DVD and BluRay.
- Switzerland: Already available on DVD and BluRay.
- UK: DVD available from June 25th from Thunderbird Releasing.
- Italy: Already available digitally from Itunes, Chili Cinema and The Film Club. Available on DVD from May 31st from Minerva Pictures.
- Latin America: Available to stream from SpaceGo.
- Japan: Already out on DVD, Amazon Prime, Itunes and Youtube Movies.
The film stars Harry Lister Smith, Alex Mills, Vanessa Grasse, Mark Arnold, Claudia Trujillo, Callum McGowan, James Alper, Andrew Horton.
Visual effects breakdown:
Early proof of concept video:
Early concept teaser: