Its not every day that I come across a giant bug movie I find it hard to get behind, man. Give me some radiated insect, some hot and sultry scientist gal, some military hi-jinx and some city/town-wide destruction, and I'm popping smiles left and right, but somehow, this months SPIDERS failed to do it for me, in any way whatsoever. Let me attempt to pinpoint the reasons why, and maybe save you a buck or ten...
First off...the plot.
SPIDERS is your typical 'space insects hurtle towards earth on a shuttle-fragment and once here presume to grow faster than Russell Crowe's beer-gut' scenario. We've been here a million times before, and lets be honest, we don't give a good shit how the giant spiders get here, just as long as when they DO get here, they fuck shit up like the MC5 circa '69. Plots, characters, acting and drama almost always get a pass in these b-movies. They get by on charm, playfulness and yes, big-ass bugs eating hapless extras. Its not much to ask. Occasionally we'll get a serious take on this thing, (MIMIC comes immediately to mind), and some of them are even stone-cold classics, (THEM! still ranks as the big daddy of the giant creep-crawly flicks, and TREMORS resides among the all-time greats like a boss), but for the most part they're simply throwaway fun. Shamelessly made and slightly shaming to watch and enjoy. Not that such confliction of standards will stop us hungry horror fans...
So, as a bug-movie enthusiast, and a well-known chronic arachnophobe, I jumped into SPIDERS with a mix of apprehension and boyish glee. A big bug bonanza made for the big screen sounded like just the ticket, man. Well you know what? It wasn't.
The show starts off pretty strong, with a cool opening shot of some space-spiders scuttling amidst the corpses of a derelict space-hub, (is that what we're calling these things? I have no fucking clue...I'm not a scientist), that pans through the devastation wrought by the little eight-legged bastards, and out into open space, where we see some random meteors smash the 'hub' to shit. This, of course, sends our little buddies on a one-way trip to New York, (obviously), where they crash into the subway, set up home, and begin to grow at 'AN ALARMING RATE!!!!!!'. The usual...so far, so good. No complaints.
Even the introduction of the characters is passable. Its a scenario cribbed straight from a thousand other films of this ilk...deadbeat dad's kids think hes something of an ass-packet, invasion occurs, deadbeat dad steps up to the plate and saves his ungrateful little shits from becoming lunch, (don't kids in these films realise daddy has to work to buy 'em all that Ipod and Ipad shit!!??). Its WAR OF THE WORLDS on welfare. Again...so far, so good.
Its somewhere around the ten minute mark, when the spiders are discovered, that the film begins to feel, well...flat. That's the best description I can think of for the vibe this thing gives off. Any bug movie fan knows the drill...we catch glimpses of the beasts, some useless characters are killed in gruesome but mysterious fashion, and lo and behold, by the time the second half of the movie is underway, we're dick-deep in insectiod mayhem. We're used to the slow build, but with SPIDERS, its nearly 45 minutes before anything of any note, or any action for that matter, takes place.
We saw the spiders in the opening shot, albeit in much smaller form, so there's no mystery there as to the otherworldly appearance of the little fuckers, and the early kills are distinctly tension-free and bloodless. I know this is rated PG but so was ARACHNOPHOBIA, and that shit still gives me nightmares to this very day. There's no spine-tingling anticipation at all here. And when thats coming from the mouth of a giant pussy like me, who cringes at the mere mention of spiders, you know you got yourself some major issues. This film should have worked for me on the insects alone.
The special effects really do hurt the film, too. They're distractingly bad, and the creatures themselves have no personality. These are space-spiders, man! Have some fun with this shit! The CG looks extremely dated...bewilderingly so. If you happen to see this thing, and I'm sure many of you will, just compare the effects here to the work in EIGHT-LEGGED FREAKS, and that film is around ten years old. There's no comparison to be made. ELF stands up on its effects work to this day. In SPIDERS, the creatures don't only lack personality, they lack the most vital component required for CG to convince in any real way...weight. There's no sense of pressure or of gravity with these things. They just seem to float around the screen like they wandered off the set of a ScyFy Original. And that's what this film feels like, a low-budget, DTV bug flick. Were it to hang with its peers, such as SHARKTOPUS, OCTO-MOM and GARGANTUA-WHATEVER-THE-FUCK, it would stand as one of the better looking kids in the gang, but as a full release...now way, man. ELF was a cinema experience...SPIDERS is a six-pack-and-in-your-boxers experience.
And I'm gonna use that much-loved little b-movie homage as a comparison here because, well, why wouldn't I? They both have similar plots, similar beasties and similar action scenes, but one of them has oodles of charm, funny dialogue, great effects, brilliant action, a genuine 1950's bug movie vibe and a sense of goofy fun...the other one is SPIDERS.
I don't wanna beat down on this thing for long, man. It is what it is. Its a cheaply made, well-meaning b-movie that sadly lacks the sparkle and the wit that drives the best of these films. Its punching above its weight and would find itself much more at home among the legion of VOD releases of similar ilk. It's action falls flat, its effects are sub-par and, while the characters are likable, (though it doesn't help that this thing stars an actor from STARSHIP TROOPERS, drawing yet more comparisons to far greater films), there's no sense of tension or danger in the whole thing. It's a spider movie that can't elicit even the mildest shiver from a deeply arachnophobic reviewer. It's not the worst giant insect movie out there, but it's a real disappointment to anyone expecting this decades EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS. My advice...go watch that film instead.
Sorry guys, this ones a dud.
3 Dr Smirnoffs out of 10