Horror Movies

TICKS. Cult classic sci-fi horror from VHS era

My name is Radek, and I’m a VHS addict.

Radoslaw Buczkowski

27 March 2024

TICKS. Cult classic sci-fi horror from VHS era

As easy as addiction goes, anyone who starts their morning with an espresso drip knows it, as do fans of aspartame chewing through eight packs of Orbit a day, and so do roaring forty-something singles sniffing crushed chocolate for an endorphin rush, as well as heroin addicts injecting needles into their eyeballs – to each their own, your time, your health, your money. As you’ve probably noticed, there haven’t been any new releases in this dripping-with-cult section for the past few weeks. The reason is simple: I had a problem with VHS addiction, a multi-genre concoction, and when I got carried away, I could spend the whole weekend high, watching film after film, much to the dissatisfaction of my better half.

Apparently, VHS classics really messed with my head: I stopped shaving, smoked two packs of unfiltered cigarettes, and started walking around the office barefoot, wearing only an undershirt and a beret – just in case of an attack by German terrorists with British accents. When I tried to kiss my woman again without removing the toothpick from my mouth, Jadzia said enough and sent me to detox in the happy land of TV soap operas and American cinematic novelties, which she called “new wave indie social cinema” – explaining my several-week absence. When the treatment didn’t yield the expected results (I was tossing and turning like Arnie in Total Recall: “Let me go… aghhhh!!!”), Jadzia thanked me for my cooperation, and I, hooked up through a Euro connector like through a venous cannula, spent the last month drowning my sorrows in the joyful realm of VHS – Hitachi, let me live!!! One of the titles – turned out to be very timely, as it dealt with drugs and the danger associated with them (yes, I know about the existence of Brain Damage) – it was Ticks, or the B-classic from 1993.

Ticks Seth Green

The thematic combination of forest parasites (aforementioned Ticks) with GMO marijuana and gangsters is a potential hit, and so it is in this case. Well, but from the beginning: a group of troubled teenagers is delegated to some godforsaken forest center, where they are supposed to get rid of worries and problems, fight addictions, and work on their characters. The crew, being an upgraded version of teenagers from John Hughes’ movies, is practically begging for brutal death from bloodthirsty spiders. Whoever wasn’t there – noble sympathetic redhead, delicate maiden, future single mother of five, Latino wise guy, and a future victim of Brooklyn gang skirmishes. The whole idea of the trip, of course, is pretextual and mega dumb; one of the characters goes to the forest to treat anxiety states, it should be added that these anxiety states were caused by the fact that he got lost in the forest years ago, which traumatized him so much that he developed agoraphobia – does forest wilderness cause fear of open spaces in the city? How so? Yes, it does, Los Angeles is a concrete jungle – you’re down in the jungle baby, you’re gonna dieee, as Axl Rose squealed. Whatever you fear, that’s what you heal, so the red-haired lad goes to the forest for shock therapy – literally, because encounters with mutated ticks can’t be called anything else.


Since we’re already on ticks, as is commonly known, those damn things are terrible – three stages of development (larva, nymph, imago), in each of them they have to suck blood from a vertebrate – some nature documentary about these arachnids or a few pictures from Google can serve as a solid horror material. However, a plain tick is not enough, and you have to mutate the old geezer with some chemical sludge for growing marijuana (that’s what happens when you grow pot in the woods); as a result, ticks, which are small, millimeter-sized creatures, turn into melon-sized monsters and attack anything in their path. If the victim is on steroids, the ticks also gain weight accordingly – the scene with a tick growing inside the victim’s body, and then tearing the human corpse to shreds, still amazes with its ingenuity to this day. There are several scenes that are simply damn powerful, especially the one with the dog and the lesser-known brother of a famous director, Clint Howard (by the way, one of my favorite actors), who, after a tick attack on his face, looks only slightly worse than usual.

Ticks Seth Green

It should be added that ticks are not the only villains in the movie, as there is also an eloquent, very cultured, and absolutely ruthless businessman, who in his free time is a drug baron, and he is accompanied by a redneck idiot helper – just like in life. The whole scheme of growing weed is, of course, mega-ridiculous, because as much as I love a series about a chemistry teacher producing methamphetamine, and I buy into the idea of a government employee with immunity smuggling coke from South America, Gordon Gekko growing weed in some forest backwater doesn’t resonate with me. Weed is good? Seriously? Stuff like that is grown by students in greenhouses somewhere in neighborhood allotments, or maybe in dorms, not by refined businessmen/gangsters – an old wardrobe, pots, good quality soil, sterile bags, aluminum foil, mercury bulbs, a good fan… um, I mean, I don’t know, I’m just saying.


Drugs are evil, and the director shares a similar opinion about them, but it should be noted that libertarian, Lyme-free blood flows in his veins, because Tony Randel consciously criticizes all bans imposed by the state on substances. Here’s the businessman, unable to produce goods legally, in appropriate conditions, fully ecologically, forced to take the path of lawlessness, where he grows marijuana under guerrilla conditions, and in the struggle for survival, he is forced to use chemical agents for faster plant growth, which ultimately leads to tragedy. The presence of grown ticks, biting off limbs, serves here as a symbol – this bloodthirsty tick is actually the crime plaguing the great American country.

Ticks Ami Dolenz

Such bans always lead to an escalation of violence. I could start a discourse on the detrimental effects of American prohibition in the years 1919 – 1933, of which the only beneficiaries were probably gangsters and coffin producers, but I will give a closer example to my heart – attention, a story based on facts. My great-grandmother Antonia, who hated communist authorities with all her heart, after the fall of the USSR emigrated from green Ukraine to spend the last years of her life in capitalist Poland. She quickly gained respect in the local homemakers’ club as a skilled specialist in baking, competing with several other ladies for the title of master baker of a wide range of poppy seed cakes – I still remember when I wanted to give a girl a kiss for a poppy seed bun, but the temptation of a poppy seed delicacy was irresistible. Well, poppy seeds were scarce in stores at that time and growing poppies was strictly prohibited, and without special permits, the specter of a poppy seed famine loomed over our village. Resourceful grandma then sowed a patch of corn with several rows of poppies, and in the middle she sowed poppy seeds, and soon Antonia became a real poppy baron in the area – selling poppies in bulk, yeast buns, pancakes, smuggling poppy straw (she always wondered what it was for). The problem arose when the ladies from the homemakers’ club began to be jealous of Antonia’s successes and started to turn their own poppy rolls on the sly.

Ticks Seth Green Rosalind Allen

It was a real war: destroyed crops, shootings from burning candles, stolen berets, ambushes at rosaries – the local priest couldn’t keep up with absolving: “Does grandma renounce…,” bam, another victim of poppy seed hunger ended up with a pierced bike tyre. There was no end to the violence, even one of the toughest, Jozie Rybacka, met her end in a cornfield, and Grandma Antonia herself perished in her fishpond, with a rolling pin in her hand (say hello to my little friend!). This tragedy could have been avoided, as the director of Ticks also knows. Yesterday Grandma Antonia, today murderous ticks, and what tomorrow? I have nothing else left but to recommend Ticks to you for a lazy afternoon, because, as the old mountaineers say, better Ticks on VHS than those under your armpit. From writing absolute nonsense, I feel a slight hunger for movies, and I think I’ll start the Police Academy series soon – seven parts, quite a lot, and the last two installments are so bad that they threaten with a potential golden shot… but I sacrifice myself for you!