SPIDERS 3D: on DVD and 3D Blu-ray 14th October

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SPIDERS 3D: on DVD and 3D Blu-ray 14th October

RUNNING TIME: 89 min

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

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A Russian satellite containing dead humans and large spiders is hit by a meteor which sends a portion of it to Earth where it crashes through a street in New York and ends up in a tunnel. Subway supervisor Jason Cole sends one of his men to investigate, but he gets bitten by a spider and fries himself by landing on a train rail. An autopsy reveals that the guy has been implanted with tiny eggs. Jason argues with his soon-to-be ex-wife, Rachael, who works for the Health Department, about re-opening the tunnel, then investigates himself, accompanied by two pest exterminators. They find a load of spiders who kill one of the exterminators and the others barely escape with their lives. Then Jason is told that the eggs inside his worker must be of alien origin because there are no bacteria present. The army turn up and quarantines the surrounding city blocks, telling the public it’s to contain a viral outbreak….

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I have a particular fondness for spider films, whether the spiders just be of normal size a la Arachnophobia, are somewhat enlarged like in Eight Legged Freaks, or bloody huge like in Tarantula. This means that I’m probably more inclined to enjoy trash like The Giant Spider Invasion then many others, though I like to think that I can tell the difference between a good film and a bad film even if I enjoy the bad film. The heyday of the so-bad-it’s-good ‘B’ movie was probably the 1950’s, where at times it must have seemed like you couldn’t move for oversized insects, arachnids etc, not to mention big monsters of other kinds, but there seems to be something of a recent resurgence of films of this ilk, only that the results usually go straight to home viewing. The SyFy channel have made a name for themselves producing this kind of movie, and unsurprisingly the odd spider picture crops up like Ice Spiders and Camel Spiders [reviewed elsewhere by Matt Wavish on this website]. Spiders, directed by the guy who helmed Ice Spiders but made in Bulgaria, is actually not a SyFy production. It’s also superior to your average SyFy effort [and also better than the 2000 film also called Spiders – yes, I own it], it actually having aspirations to be a good film, though some may say this takes away some of the ridiculous fun.

The opening scene, or at least most of it, is very good indeed, and got me immediately wondering if the many bad reviews Spiders seems to be getting are totally wrong. We are in space, and the camera slowly pans to the right revealing some of Earth, over which an incredibly large spider appears to be crawling, until it is revealed we are looking through the window of some space craft. The camera moves backwards through the craft, revealing dead men and lots of spiders crawling all over them. The CGI of the spiders and the camera moving through walls is a bit obvious, but then CGI is almost always obvious to me and it really is quite good here. The whole rather impressive sequence seems to be climaxing with the camera exiting the space craft and, as it retreats into space, revealing a pretty convincing and detailed space satellite. Okay, it’s not 2001: A Space Odyssey or even Star Wars, but it’s pretty good none the less…..until a meteorite hits the satellite and we get an especially lame CGI explosion even in these days of lame CGI explosions.

O well, it was good up to then, and it continues to be quite good, ignoring a dreadful shot of a part of the satellite falling past New York skyscrapers towards a road. The scene of the guy investigating in the tunnel is rather suspenseful and oddly accentuated by the blue lighting: I doubt the tunnel would actually look this blue but it’s nice to have a deliberate stylistic choice like this in a film of this nsture anyway. Then the guy is bitten, hilariously falls down on to the train track and electrocutes himself in a badly acted and staged death scene which will probably have most people laughing. Still, the movie progresses in a pleasant way, well paced though rife with cliches which really need to be consigned to the bottom drawer for a while, not notably our hero Jason not spending enough time with his daughter and being too late for her birthday meal out because he is too busy with his job. Patrick Muldoon [who previously fought spiders in Ice Spiders and insect-like monsters in Starship Troopers] isn’t bad here but Sydney Sweeney is far too old to play a 12 year old and Christa Campbell as her mum seems to be caked in so much make-up that she can hardly show any expression. Never mind, it’s always nice to have the underrated William Hope in a film, even if he’s playing a hugely unoriginal part.

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We do get to see spiders in large numbers quite quickly but the story gets more interested in human villainy. A Russian scientist showing up early is the first obvious sign of this, though he’s not really a bad guy, just misguided. This character is given the job of eventually explaining what they were doing on that satellite and why the spiders are growing [six inches per hour!], and it’s so pathetic and vague that they would have been better off just not including the scene at all. Screenwriters Joseph Farrugia and Tibor Takars [who also directed] do show some ambition where they try to compensate for not many spider scenes occurring until half way by including loads of other stuff going on, some of it very hackneyed like the usual Quarantine That Is Hiding Something From The Public, but adding some nice touches too, like the hoodies employed by the baddies to snatch eggs from people. All this means that the film moves fast even when the spiders are not around, and don’t worry, you do eventually get lots of scenes of the critters chasing people and battling the military.

The spiders really do look good, resembling proper spiders, containing lots of detail, and being reasonably well blended into their environment. Only one huge example lets the side down a little, certainly boasting a spider’s body but with a face nothing like one, while they all make hissing and growling noises which holds them back from actually being scary. Considering also that there is only minimal gore [mostly shots of open stomachs containing eggs which do look rather good], I wondered if Spiders really needed the ‘15’ rating it has and whether a ’12 ‘rating wouldn’t have been more suitable. Some of the film is certainly exciting but falls short of actually being scary. It also mostly lacks humour, bravely playing things straight rather than taking the easy option of taking the mickey. How well you think they succeeded may be down to what you expect from a film like this. It does lack the edge that it needed to stand out in a crowded field, and possible attempts to bring back memories of the classic Them! don’t help at all!

At least Tibor Takacs does a good job, though it’s a great shame that he never really continued the promise he showed in the early part of his career with films like The Gate and I, Madman. Lorenzo Senatore’s camera is often moving, his work giving the film a decent look [though you’re never convinced you’re in New York, even with the employment of a matte painting!], though Joseph Conlan’s score is wildly erratic and sometimes misjudged. Sometimes you hear an electronic pattern that sounds like a helicopter, and it’s sometimes played when there are helicopters on-screen! For most of the time though Spiders isn’t bad at all. If you want to piss yourself over a ridiculous creature feature, you may be let down by it, but if you fancy trying out a ‘B’ movie that at least tries to do its best some of the time, you could do a whole lot worse. I didn’t see it in 3D because of my intense dislike of the format, but from what I could tell it’s not essential.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

SPECIAL FEATURES
* Web of Terror: The Making of Spiders 3D
* Cast and Crew Interviews

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About Dr Lenera 1981 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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