An intro from your Uncle Ken:
As usual, I was wondering if I’d get this latest article done for this weekend. (Remember when I thought I’d get all three of these posted that next weekend after the films’ broadcast? Ha ha ha! We’re so stupid when we’re young.) And the time constraints are very real and pressing: Next week is the next B-Masters’ Cabal roundtable, and I’ve yet to even start my Teenage Zombies review. That’s one deadline I really don’t want to miss. And there’s the two Netflix rental discs sitting on my TV, DVDs I can’t return and exchange for more until I write them up for the November issue of Video Cheese. And, worst of all, I’d scanned Spiders but hadn’t even really watched it yet. Tick tock tick tock…
Then it struck me! (Yes, it took that long. Kinda slow, your Uncle Ken.) It’s not like there’s a rule saying that I have to contribute to each and every one of these things. After all, they are supposed to be ‘Reader’ forums. Maybe I shouldn’t even be joining in at all. (Although I wouldn’t want to look like I was being snobby, either.) And while earlier in the week the submittals were looking fairly sparse, in the last couple of days they’ve beef up mightily. So it’s not like I need to pad this article out any further.
So, for the main, I guess I’ll let our Distinguished Correspondents work this baby over. I hope they enjoy the results, and I hope you enjoy the results, and I hope everyone looks forward to us trying this again in the future.
Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have some observations. So here goes:
- Even from a cursory scan of the film, it was obvious that this was the best of the lot. Not the greatest thing ever, mind you, but solidly better than Crocodile and massively better than Octopus. (Of course, the latter was the most touched by Jabootu. So it’s got that going for it.)
- Best of all, there was plenty of Monster Action here. Which is, after all, why one watches this stuff. And it builds rather nicely, with the biggest arachnid being saved for last, and given a merry rampage of destruction to boot.
- Alien DNA. It covers a lot of plot holes, doesn’t it? Why is that giant spider bulletproof? Alien DNA. How can it grow so fast? Alien DNA. What’s with the mouth? Alien DNA. How come it can violate the Square-Cube Law with impunity? Faulty science. OK, that’s three out of four, anyway.
- I really guess that it was too much to hope for that we could actually see three monster movies in a row, none of which would trot out the old Evil Government Bioweapons Project thing. Still, I’m assuming that the Evil Guy here was meant satirically, given how over the top he is.
- I suppose it’s hard now to shoot anything without perhaps inadvertently aping an earlier film, but the scene of the three characters up in the rocks spying upon the vast, secret government base is right out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
- By the way, it’s apparently much easier to sneak around Top Secret, Super Classified bases than I had realized.
- Things I Didn’t Know: If you hit the right button, an elevator will literally plummet to the bottom of the shaft.
- Hmm, unless there’s a lot more sex and gore awaiting the eventual video release of this, it was fairly (and thankfully) tame in those departments. But what’s with all the swearing? Was it just the cheapest way to go for that ‘R’ rating?
- I’d like to think that the mutation the astronauts went through was a sly reference to Tarantula. In that ‘50s sci-fier, the serum that made animals and bugs big just gave humans a fatal case of acromegaly. The results were fairly similar to what the astronauts suffer here. If this is on purpose, my hat’s off to the sly parties responsible. More likely, though, it’s just a coincidence.
- Well, a week later and I’m eating my words. In the Crocodile review, I mentioned my belief that CGI effects don’t work in monster movies as well as physically created effects. Here that proved not the case. The model spiders all looked plasticy. And while not perfect by any means, the CGI spiders moved a lot better. Maybe insects, yes, I know, and arachnids, with their almost mass-less seeming grace, are just more suited to being represented in this fashion than mammals and reptiles. Time will tell. (For instance, Devlin and Emmerich are currently hatching up their own low-budget spider flick, Arac Attack. And lets’ not forget Arachnid, about a giant alien spider…I kid you not. Nor, of course, Spiders 2.)
Well, that’s enough yakking from me. Now that I’ve said my piece, I can actually begin to read everyone’s submissions. Thanks again to all the fellows who contributed to these three articles. We’ll do it again, and maybe next time the ladies will join in.
-Fred Robinson/Nowhere Man-
Observations of clichÃˆs (Of Course…), stupidities, and stuff I didn’t know (IDKT = I Didn’t Know That…), jotted down as the movie progressed, with some notes expanded later.
By Nowhere Man (Fred Robinson), minion of Jabootu, email@example.com, 10/17/2000
- Ah, the secret HQ and situation room of Majestic-12. Named after a thoroughly discredited “proof of government involvement in UFOs” document. Can you say conspiracy? Sure. I knew you could.
- And why are they working with NASA? Maybe the Moon landings were faked. Sadly, the movie never goes into this.
- Space shuttle “Solaris.” Maybe somebody involved reads Stanislaw Lem?
- I know! It’s spiders vs. the alien invaders!
- IDKT aliens get off on non-dairy creamer.
- Somebody says, “The shuttle is now passing over Canada,” as a finger points to Italy on the map.
- IDKT injecting a spider makes it explode.
- Oh, a solar flare. How deus ex machina to have it happen just as the spider is injected. Of Course, the critter escapes and bites everyone.
- Of Course, the “electric fence” joak . Doesn’t that remind you of Jurassic Park?
- If I hear “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” again anytime soon, I’m gonna puke.
- Aren’t spiders more fragile than humans? Shouldn’t a crash that kills most of the people turn the spider into goo?
- IDKT a thermos-sized bomb will ignite an entire space shuttle.
- OK, the three kids (to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt) are locked inside a canvas-topped truck.
- These soldiers are very unobservant! Wouldn’t you notice three extra bodies in your truck?
- Oh, a reverse alien: An egg is laid in the torso, and the hatched critter crawls out the mouth.
- Boy, did that thing develop fast. From a quarter-inch (or so) egg to a critter the size of a football in a couple of hours. That thing grows faster than cancer.
- WTF is everyone else in this base? There were the two medical types, and not a sign of any other kind of staff. You’d expect a scrambling of everyone involved with the spider project in a case like this.
- “This is like a bad sci-fi movie.” How true!
- Oh boy, they’re in Conspiracy Central. An Apollo 18 astronaut, one box marked J. Morrison, another marked 11-22-63. What’s next, Nixon’s missing 18 minutes?
- HTF did the spider get there before them, dragging 120 pounds of female medical-type person?
- That’s one busy spider. It’s filled the entire stairwell with webs.
- Jake’s walking pretty well for having a huge spider bite in his leg.
- IDKT secret government agencies use Macs.
- IDKT secret government agencies have lousy computer security and fancy graphic.
- IDKT zero G is a characteristic of atmospheres.
- If you inject a spider with alien DNA, you get… a lousy movie! (And don’t even get me started on the thought of injecting a huge spider with a huge hypodermic full of alien DNA. Genetic manipulation don’t work that way, folks.)
- That was a damn big funnel-web spider they started with. Looked more like a tarantula.
- And I don’t think there are any spiders that lay their eggs in living hosts. Wasps do that to spiders.
- IDKT spider bites will make your flesh swell up and pulse.
- You’re climbing up the inside of an elevator shaft. Suddenly the elevator comes up underneath you. Why not just jump on top of the thing for a free ride?
- HTF did the spider get up there before them? And it’s huge, too. What’s it been eating? (Besides a medical type and a college student, I mean.)
- Wow, there’s not much give to that web. This is something that bugs me: Movie characters fall several floors, and are suddenly stopped with no ill effect and no gradual deceleration. If you fell that far and stopped that suddenly, you’d be street pizza. Example: In Batman, when Keaton and Pfeiffer are falling off the cathedral, a Bat-grapple on the end of a Bat-rope stops their 20-storey fall with a jerk, and all she can say is a surprised “Oh!” I’m surprised he could hold on to her, much less hold on to the Bat-rope. [Editor’s Note: See the rather more realistic Gwen Stacey incident in, I believe, The Amazing Spider-Man #121. It’s that’s right, then yes, I am somewhat embarrassed to be able to remember the issue number.]
- OK, there goes the flannel shirt. How much longer before she takes off the rest of her clothes? (I know, you can’t even follow the arguments for all the bleeped-out words. No way she’s taking off any more. Still, a guy can hope, can’t he?)
- HTF many spiders are there?
- IDKT giant spiders are bulletproof.
- Ah, there we go. It’s wet t-shirt time!
- Of Course, the goal of the project was to create a super soldier spider that would be dropped behind enemy lines. And Of Course, no thought at all was given to how to stop the damn things when they’ve eaten all of the enemy.
- OK, a giant ten-foot-plus tall spider has just clawed its way out of the back of a 200-pound Man in Black. WTF did all the extra mass come from?
- The secretary is using non-dairy creamer. Maybe she’s an alien too?
- Flower stand! Flower stand! (OK, so it’s not a fruit cart. At least one small independently owned agricultural-product sales conveyance has to be destroyed in each chase or riot scene.)
- There are little asphalt ramps right where the SWAT truck runs up on the sidewalk. How convenient.
- IDKT SWAT team members shout “Hut! Hut! Hut!” when they leave their truck.
- IDKT giant spiders are made of stuff that sparks when bullets ricochet off them.
- Hey, there’s no prop wash outside the chopper.
- Here’s another long fall with a sudden stop. That should have broken her back.
- She’s hanging from a much different knot than the one she tied.
- Look, a tank-top clad woman with a bazooka! Doesn’t that remind you of Terminator?
- Of Course, she’s a much better shot with a bazooka than the agent. He’s only trained to use it, and was only standing on firm, level ground, so naturally he misses. She’s had no training, and is riding in a swinging helicopter (and later is hanging underneath the chopper), and manages to hit it twice.
- These spiders are too fast and too big to be believed. The one chasing the kids in the base is ahead of them at nearly every turn, and still finds time to take out a handful of Army men (Marines?) and hang everyone from the ceiling.
- There’s a reason we don’t see spiders much bigger than a person’s hand. The way they’re built, they can’t get any bigger without smothering themselves from their weight. And the big one at the end is able to crawl up the side of a building. Arrgh! Make it stop! Make the movie stop!
- I know somebody who would run screaming down the street if she saw this movie, she hates spiders that much. Too bad I’ll not get a chance to show it to her…
-The Grand Poobah of PRAM-
My thoughts on this film:
- Majestic-12 HQ. What the heck is X-Files crap doing in a giant monster movie?
- She’s reading an article by Uri Adamski. Cute. Uri is probably a reference to Uri Geller, psychic/professional litigant, and Adamski is presumably a reference to George Adamski, one of the first UFO “contactees.” (This is back when aliens showed up and said hello, before they discovered the joys of kidnapping and anal probing people. Of course, then as now, anyone who had any kind of contact with aliens could be counted on to turn their experience into a book, and make a pile of cash. The aliens, oddly enough, haven’t yet figured out the money they’re missing out on.)
- Marci, our heroine, is a crusading college reporter. She’s kinda like Karl Kolchak, except much prettier and a lot less sane. She has a friend who is a computer h4X0r, as is now pretty much standard in this stuff. He proves his 31337 skills by handing her a printout he “downloaded”…on dot matrix paper. Either the college paper is using some really old equipment, this guy is into retro computing, or the prop guy on this movie got his props from the dregs that ‘Whiz Kids” left on the Studio lot.
- The evil government base is “Area 21.” Ho ho ho, kids, this is KOMEDY!
- Her editor has more brains than she does. Or maybe not: he’s put a UFO nut in charge of covering the space program, roughly the equivalent of putting a Flat Earther in charge of covering geography. And she tells him that a shuttle launch “is not hard news!” Dude, you might want a different reporter on the space beat.
- Ah, an informed attribute. Marci is a good writer, which is why she hasn’t been kicked off the school paper.
- The shuttle is named Solaris. There should be a law forbidding lousy movies from referencing classic films, on pain of death.
- A mysterious solar flare lets loose the spider on the shuttle Solaris, right after the spider is injected with some mysterious substance. The spider runs amok and, despite being about 5 inches wide, forces an emergency landing of the shuttle at Area 21.
- Marci and her friends are spying on “Area 21.” Her friends are a lot saner than she is…but pretty dumb, as this is the thirteenth time they’ve done this with her.
- Marci has somehow acquired Han Solo’s binoculars from ‘Empire Strikes Back.”
- Some secret base: these clowns have been around there thirteen times and not been spotted by the base security. And the fence isn’t even electrified.
- This college paper is apparently far more serious than mine was. The editor expects people to report in when there’s breaking news. “We have a deadline!” he screams. Apparently, in this world, the college paper covers stuff beyond campus in great detail, unlike in the real world, where college don’t do too much in-depth coverage of the world beyond campus.
- Solaris (which has supposedly burned up in orbit) crash lands in front of our heroes, who show their brainpower by running right into the burning wreck. For a follow-up, they’ll play Russian roulette with a shotgun.
- Here come the evil government agents (who are, of course, Men In Black…), and the evil commandos. All of them are oblivious to anything not directly in front of them.
- The evil spider injected something into the surviving astronaut. Wonder if we’ll see a monster whose offspring hatches from its victims, in a yet another rip-off of Alien.
- Wow. This script shows a glint of intelligence, as the MIBs order the commandos to clean up the site within 40 minutes, as a satellite will pass overhead by then, taking pictures.
- Young MIB accidentally steps on the spider, angering Head MIB, who cared more about the spider than anything else.
- Yep, the MIBs are evil. They gun down a doctor who tries to help the surviving astronaut. Since this doctor has presumably been part of the MIB medical corps for some time, how could he not know that it would be deadly to argue with Head MIB? Maybe because the writers want to establish that the MIBs are *EVVVVVVVVVIIIIIIIIILLLLL*, in case you missed all the earlier, subtle (if being hit in the head with a brick is subtle) clues that they’re evil?
- Young MIB is squeamish. Bet you he’ll defect and join the Scooby Gan…er, our heroes.
- MIBs carry atomic grenades. And don’t take cover after throwing them.
- The commandos bring back Marci et al in a truck that’s hauling bodies from the shuttle crash. Fortunately, the commandos are stupid and legally blind, and don’t notice Marci and friends lying in the truck.
- Marci and her homies sneak around Area 21, which, despite being a very important super secret evil government base, has less security than your average Wal-Mart.
- By coincidence, the surviving astronaut is brought to the very floor they’re sneaking around on.
- Now, they find a lab that proves that every insane thing Marci has ever said is right.
- MIB medical leaves the surviving astronaut alone and unguarded, so that Marci and pals can sneak in an talk to him.
- They help the astronaut out by getting a picture of him, thus proving that they have what it takes to get ahead in journalism. If you see a guy begging for help as his life ebbs away, take a picture, for Pete’s sake! It may get you a Pulitzer, or a job at CNN, at the very least.
- MIB medical shows up right as the giant spider bursts out of the astronaut’s mouth (incidentally violating the law of conservation of mass in the process), allowing our heroes to escape as the spider kills MIB medical. Marci steps on and breaks her glasses in the process.
- Ah, a Blair Witch moment, as Marci & Co. squabble amongst themselves while fleeing the giant killer spider.
- With his dying breath, a member of the MIB medical team sets off a security alarm. A grand total of seven men, two MIBs and five commandos, respond. Downsizing has obviously hit Area 21 hard, or they’d have more than seven people on staff.
- Yet more crap that would be rejected as too stupid to appear in an X-Files episode. (And yes, that is *VERY* stupid.) The body of an Apollo 18 crewman — with a Space Shuttle patch — is found frozen. There’s a trunk labeled “J. Morrison,” (this is obviously the writer’s attempt to interject some humor…too bad it isn’t funny) as well as one labeled “11-22-63.” One of the characters notes, “This is like a bad sci-fi film.” Actually, it *IS* a bad sci-fi film. A really bad one. Bad as in “man, that dog poo smells bad,” not “bad to the bone” bad, just in case any readers were high on acid and thought the latter category applied to this shambling wreck of a film.
- The Head MIB and the Head Commando (who is a colonel…leading 5 men. And you thought Tom Hanks had it bad in Saving Private Ryan when he was reduced to commanding a seven-man squad. Could be worse, folks!) argue. The Head MIB wants the giant spider alive, even if some of the commandos get killed in the process. He threatens to shoot the Colonel if the Colonel argues with him again.
- The Spider uses the Voorhees Unreality Engine (VUE) to set up a lair filled with bodies on a lower level well before Marci & Co. gets there, and also manages to web up many flights of stairs.
- The h4X0r dude gets bitten by the Spider. That bite has been pretty much instantly fatal so far, but h4X0r dude shrugs it off. Our heroes dump the Spider down a bunch of flights of stairs and escape. The Spider twitches for a bit, then molts and gets bigger.
- Marci and friends find the unguarded master file room that explains it all. Seems the MIBs have had a project to inject alien DNA into a crossbreed Spider that breeds asexually, lays its eggs in its victims, and has invariably fatal venom. They needed to inject the DNA into the spider in orbit. Why? IITS. Note to writers: injecting DNA into an already living organism isn’t going to do much of anything. Splicing the genes I could maybe buy, but something already living? Doesn’t work that way, and anyone who knows basic biology knows that. Guess you guys missed that lesson, along with the one on the law of conservation of mass.
- h4X0r guy reads the bit about 100% fatal venom, remembers he was bitten, and freaks out. Now that he’s read about it, the venom starts affecting him. This is kind of like those Warner Brothers cartoons where characters ignorant of the law of gravity aren’t affected by it. Kinda, except it’s unintentionally hilarious, unlike those cartoons, which were intended to be funny. The upshot of this is that h4x0r guy goes off in search of the Spider, which he finds. It drags him off to its lair, leaving Marci alone with the other guy. (Hereafter referred to as TOG.)
- Our heroes find the elevator and head up…too bad it’s controlled by a keycard system. They climb out of the elevator and up the shaft, to try to come out on another floor. The elevator goes up the shaft pass them. They continue up to the next floor, only to be attacked by a POV shot! Yes, the VUE serves the Spider well. Despite having traveled at least 5 floors up from where they were, he’s waiting for them. They fall down the shaft, and land in a massive spider web many, many floors down. (VUE, do your stuff!) For some reason, only TOG gets stuck, and Marci flees as the Spider drags another meal/incubator back to its lair.
- The VUE comes into play again, as the Spider kills some commandos on the floor it originally came in on, despite having been far below that floor scant seconds ago.
- Marci runs into young MIB, and gets his gun. She shoots at him from two feet away, but misses. This may be due to her having lost her glasses: if so, it’s the only time we’ll see her affected by that loss at all. Maybe she just wore them to look cute.
- Suddenly, all the commandos save their leader are gone. But Head MIB kills Head Commando for firing on the Spider: he wants the Spider alive, do you understand? That he now has only two guys to deal with a giant Spider that has managed to kill at least 6 people so far, and has webbed up a good chunk of the base, doesn’t seem to faze him.
- Marci and Young MIB (whose name is John Murphy) have a knockdown, drag-out fight. The Spider uses the VUE and shows up, forcing Marci to save Murphy and realize that he’s not a bad guy. She fights off the Spider by stabbing its eyes with an iron rod.
- Head MIB (who is named Grey..hahahaha! Oh my sides!) shows up. He knows who Marci is: her stories have come close enough to the truth that he’s kept an eye on her. Murphy rebels against Grey, but his gun is empty! Fortunately, the Spider shows and attacks Grey, who curses his creation as it poisons him and implants an egg.
- Murphy reloads as they head into the Spider’s lair; he loots a body and grabs a keycard. This gets them into the elevator, as the Spider follows them into it. They use the elevator to crush the Spider, and then leave Area 21, so Marci can get to the paper and get her story in.
- They get to her paper, only to find Grey there. He’s gunned down Marci’s editor for no real reason…except to show that he’s EVVVVVVVVVILLLLLL, in case you haven’t gotten that by now. In full Blofeld mode, he explains the project was designed to create an unstoppable army of giant spiders, mwahahahaha! Apparently, the guy who thought up Operation Razorteeth followed it with this brilliant idea. ‘Yes, General, we just parachute these spiders behind enemies lines, and in a few weeks, the enemy will be replaced by an army of unstoppable Giant Spiders!” ‘So, how do we deal with them afterwards?’ “I’ll need more funding to deal with that…”
- Grey loosens his tie as the Spider bursts out of him, doing even more damage to the law of conservation of mass than it does to his body.
- We finally get to what we’ve been waiting for: a giant spider on the rampage in a big city. None of this X-Files reject crap; I want to see giant spiders trashing a city! (It’s interesting for me to note that this movie is kind of the Mirrorverse version of Them!: In that movie, the government was trying to fight an invasion of giant ants accidentally created by nuclear testing. Here, the giant spiders are deliberately created by the government as part of a mad scheme to conquer the world. Almost diametrically opposed…and, of course, where this movie stinks like a corpse left unburied for several weeks in August, Them! is a very good film. But I digress.)
- The cops call for backup. John and Marci find Grey’s helicopter in the parking lot of the school paper. It’s loaded with all sorts of weapons, including a rocket launcher that fires depleted uranium shells. John fires on the Spider and misses, setting a house or two aflame as the Spider heads into the city.
- The Spider rampages into town, fighting the police, and then climbing a small-time skyscraper. (Meanwhile, on Skull island, King Kong complains about the wimps modern giant monsters are. I mean, in his day, he climbed the Empire State Building…not some cheese ball corporate office building that’s maybe ten stories high, tops.) Marci and John’s chopper draws near, and the cops stop shooting, recognizing it as a government chopper, whatever that means. (“Cease fire! That’s a Bureau of Indian Affairs chopper! They’ll handle it!”)
- Marcy fires a rocket at the Spider from inside the chopper. Since most laws of physics, chemistry, and common sense have been suspended, the back blast from the rocket doesn’t kill her and John. The rocket bounces off the Spider, so Marcy lowers herself on a rope to fire a rocket into the Spider’s mouth. Newton’s laws don’t exist in this movie, so the recoil doesn’t send her flying, and she kills the Spider. Movie ends.
- Ummm, what about all those webbed up bodies back at Area 21? Aren’t there eggs in all of those bodies? Doesn’t that mean that there should be more Spiders coming? I mean, we’ve only seen three freaking Spiders through the whole movie. From the poster, I expected a lot more. [Editor’s Note: Spiders 2 is currently in production, along with Crocodile 2 and Octopus 2, as well as Rats.]
- Considering the amount of effort put into this project (to the point where a Space shuttle and its entire crew are sacrificed), isn’t it odd how few people are in Area 21? I know the military is “rightsizing,” and all, but c’mon.
- The problem with this film was its attempt to be X-Filefish…a feeble attempt. Next time, guys, skip the UFO crap, come up with a better MacGuffin, and spend more time showing the giant Spiders wrecking the city. I’m reminded of my friend Li’s comment after we saw Jurassic Park II: The Lost World, that she had paid good money to see dinosaurs eat people and there just wasn’t enough of that in the movie, gosh darn it. I taped this dreck expecting to see giant spiders destroy a city, and there wasn’t anywhere near enough of that.
Here are some very brief comments on “Spiders.”
Things I learned from Spiders (Apologies to Andrew Borntreger):
- Some spider webs adhere only to the garments you want a woman to remove.
- Military attack helicopters have no built-in weaponry. Missions are strictly B.Y.O.B. (Bring your own bazooka.)
- Military helicopters look just like traffic helicopters painted olive drab green.
Disciples of Jabootu know how to translate certain lines of dialogue in movies like Spiders. For example:
Original dialogue: “Jake, see if you can get on the computer.”
Translation: “Jake, crack this high-security computer within one minute of screen time, then immediately access the precise data that explains everything.”
Original dialogue: (To soldiers) “Pair off and go search.”
Translation: “Go die two by two.”
USA’s Chow Time week of killer animal movies reached its apex (or nadir, depending on one’s personal predilections) with Spiders. Personally, I can’t find it in my heart to mercilessly lambaste the poor creature. Rather than ranging far into Jabootu territory, it seems that Spiders has instead nestled comfortably into a little patch right smack dab in the middle of the old bell curve; certainly the middle of a restricted bell curve drawn for harmless little B-movies like this. Perhaps, the movie needed the touch of some semi-big name film director like Tobe Hooper to push it free of its safe haven and down the back slope of said curve, but sadly his trademark languid, soul-searching, character introspection is not in evidence here. Instead what we have is a passable little time-waster. The pace was quick enough that inanities were only spotted upon retrospection. The animatronic spiders are not by any means laughably unconvincing, and they’re sure not camera shy. As the final icing on the cake, the bladder effect budget for this thing must have run into the six figures. On the other hand the movie can be so disappointingly formulaic that once the credits roll much of it vanishes from the mind like fairground cotton candy disappears from your mouth, leaving just a hint of flavor behind.
I’ll leave the thorough dissection of this ratty eight-legger to the minions of Jabootu that have a stronger stomach than mine. Instead I’ll try to break the film down into its constituent parts, and point out the ones most in need of repair. I’ll end with an epilogue explaining why there’s a soft spot in my heart (or head – you make the call) for goofy little genre flicks like this.
Arachnids in Space
Spiders starts with shady government spooks trying to develop a weapon of biological warfare by injecting alien DNA into a spider during a space shuttle mission. Boy, if I only had a nickel for every film that uses this same tired introduction, I’d be ready to retire. I’m actually jumping the gun a little here, since this whole alien DNA thing is only revealed latter in the film. In fact, a rather inordinate amount of time is spent latter justifying this whole shuttle mission setup. After all, for what possible reason do you have to launch spiders into orbit just to inject them with alien DNA? Can’t you inject them in a lab here on earth? The film later wastes some time explaining this, but frankly the explanation just raises more questions than it does answers. For our current purposes, we’ll just accept this for what it is – a rather clunky device for getting our female protagonist to the scene of the giant spider rampage.
Our female protagonist, Marci, is in fact a reporter for a college newspaper who is obsessed with UFO’s. Our introduction to her is very poorly handled, as we are subjected to a comic-relief type scene in her office in which she talks to a pair of obvious crackpots about their extraterrestrial origins. This really should have been rethought as these “aliens” are clearly such flakes, that Marci really comes across as a ditz for believing them. Its also amusing in these early scenes that the filmmakers have gone out of their way to make Marci look like a mousy little bookworm. She’s sporting rimless glasses that are always falling down her nose, and a shapeless, over-sized man’s collared shirt to hide all her curves. After the comic relief mercifully ends, however, Marci and her two male flunkies, Slick (!?) and Jake, head out to some mysterious military base in the desert that Marci thinks is hiding evidence of UFO’s. (By the way, why does seeing a girl obsessed with the paranormal dragging two male sidekicks out into the desert to put together a story seem like dÃˆjâ€¡ vu to me?)
Back on board the space shuttle, the totally unexpected happens. Upon being injected, the spider gets loose and kills nearly every on board the shuttle. The attack on the space shuttle is something that the filmmakers should definitely have lavished a little more time on. After the spider gets loose it takes literally 30 seconds for it to kill everyone on board save one. We see next to nothing of the attack on the crew outside of the old big-rubber-spider–prop- on-the-face gag, and the pilot somewhat ineffectually whacking at the thing with a clipboard. We’re also treated to some always-creepy bladder effects, as the spider’s bite causes the side of the pilot’s face to balloon in and out. It’s too bad that the filmmakers couldn’t have made more than this of the space shuttle attack. I mean I guess they built the shuttle set, so why didn’t they cut some of the latter alien DNA exposition stuff that, frankly, no one gives a rat’s Clymer about, and film some footage of the creepy-crawly scurrying around the confined space of the shuttle?
The mission gone horribly awry, the government spooks decide to crash land the shuttle at the mysterious military base that Velma, Shag, and Scooby (Oops, I mean Marci, Slick, and Jake) are heading off to investigate. They arrive just in time to see the shuttle crash on the mysterious base, and simply climb the fence to examine the wreckage! You’d think a bunch of evil S.O.B.’s trying to create a biological weapon by injecting spiders with alien DNA wouldn’t let scruples stand in the way of stringing up a bit of razor wire around their base. I hope the army does a better job than this over in Korea. Arriving at the wreckage before the government spooks do, they find the pilot still clinging to life. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit at this. I mean the guy’s so full of spider venom he’s got terminal edema, he’s piloted a shuttle to a crash landing, and he’s survived the ensuing breakup of the ship. Talk about stamina! Those Mercury astronauts from The Right Stuff are a bunch of pantywaisted nancy-boys compared to this guy. I also thought it was amusing how with his jowly face and hairline pushed back on his head, the pilot in certain shots resembled the late Mao Zedong. At least, he would if the former Chairman of the CCP had spent his later years popping pills and over-indulging like Elvis Presley. After the government spooks show up to examine the crash site, Heather, Josh and Mike (Oops, did it again. I mean Marci, Slick and Jake.) hide out in the back of a truck.
He’s EEEE-VILLL, I Tell Ya’
Using what is becoming a truly obnoxious set of clichÃˆs, the screenwriters not only have the government trying to develop biological weapons, but have also drawn the character of Grey – the head spook – as cartoonishly evil. Throughout the film he not only guns down people in cold blood if they need medical attention or get in his way, but here at the crash site he guns down a doctor when the doctor demands that the dying pilot be gotten to a hospital. I truly wish that these tropes were finally put to rest. First off, I know that these are the Clinton years and people who work for the government don’t take that whole obeying-the-law thing as seriously as they used to, but biological weapons are illegal. The U.S. has signed several treaties banning not only biological, but chemical weapons as well. Granted there are many totalitarian countries that seek to develop them, but it is profoundly cynical for screenwriters to regularly posit that the U.S. government has negotiated these treaties with our allies in seeming good faith, only to turn around and violate them. Why can’t the horrible mutations be the result of a good experiment gone bad? Maybe they were up in the shuttle trying to end world hunger or cure diabetes. There’s a very entertaining little British film called Island of Terror that has this exact premise. Why not try it again?
Secondly, even if we accept the whole biological weapon scenario, why does the head of the project need to be utterly evil and ruthless? The people who worked on the atom bomb weren’t evil. They were just ordinary men with special knowledge doing what they could to win the war for the U.S. Why can’t a government scientist just be an ordinary patriotic Joe trying to do his part to defend his country? I’m not sure that it would have made all that much difference for the purposes of this film, but the least the screenwriters can do is give the movie’s actors a break. If they gave the audience a chance to develop some empathy for the poor sap playing this part, then the actor playing Grey here could have tried to put in at least a two dimensional characterization instead of spending all his screen time perfecting his Simon Bar-Sinister impersonation.
To give the film a soupcon of credit, they do subvert the clichÃˆ to some extent by having a basically decent second-in-command, Murphy, who will team up with Marci later in the film to vanquish the pulpy menace. However, this only points out how annoying the whole ludicrously evil scientist clichÃˆ is in the first place. After all, if this guy’s so decent, how did he hook up with this project in the first place? Given that he seems to be the Grey’s assistant, is he only just now learning how amoral Grey is? He does seem to take the cold-blooded shooting of the doctor in stride. Is gunning down foul-mouthed doctors all in a day’s work for government spooks?
Miles and Miles of Poorly Lit Corridors
Hiding out in a truck that has come to the shuttle crash site (and hiding under corpses found in the wreckage – yuck!), our intrepid college reporters are taken deep into the bowels of the secret military base. Sadly another clichÃˆ is ahead. This one is the particular fondness – first pointed out to me by Liz over at her And You Call Yourself A Scientist! site – that military architects seem to have for designing bases with miles and miles of poorly lit corridors. In fact not only are the corridors poorly lit, but every square inch of the walls has a pipe entering or exiting it. Not content with covering the walls with pipes, the architect of this particular base also suspended extra pipes from the ceiling and added pipes rising from the floor. To be fair to his grand vision, however, the architect also included at least a couple of hundred feet of poorly lit hospital-type corridors, possibly left over from the set of Halloween II. There are also an elevator shaft or two, a (need I say it?) poorly lit stairwell, and steel grate catwalks that have been placed over big pools of murky liquid – the utility of which is left to our imaginations. It’s also looking as if those reductions in biological warfare spending are starting to pinch. As an amusing counterpart to the seeming vastness of the base, there seems to be only 8 people staffing the place.
Poorly lit corridors form the backdrop for many an extremely tedious B movie. The utility of the set in saving money on scripting is obvious. Rather than trying to generate suspense by careful scripting, the screenwriter merely sets the monster loose in said corridors. Then the director can shoot endless minutes of sweaty heavily-armed men and women, their faces drawn haggard with apprehension, shining flashlights and poking their guns into every single nook and cranny formed by the elaborate plumbing decorating the corridor walls and ceiling. Poor lighting also allows the filmmaker to keep his crummy-looking monster puppet in darkness all the time so we can’t see how truly phony it looks. In defense of Spiders, however, the film doesn’t fall victim to the tedium so strongly implied by its sets. In fact, after the spider gets loose in the base and Grey sends the four soldiers that work there out to find it, the spider makes very short work of them indeed. The bulk of the arthropodic noshing takes place in the base set’s open, and in some cases decently lit, spaces. Furthermore, every one of the eponymous beasties of the title is a camera hog. There sure isn’t any skulking in the shadows for these buggers.
What we do have, however, is some definite silliness. When Jake gets the bite put on him in the stairwell and the onset of bladder effects foretells his imminent demise, we are subjected to some of the worst ensemble acting in the movie. Slick gets his when he and Marci are knocked down an elevator shaft by the enormous spider only to land on one of her giant webs. In a fairly effective little scare scene, we watch as the spider scuttles down the side of the shaft to land on top of the poor dolt. Things take a truly wacky turn when Murphy, searching for the escaped arachnid, comes across Marci trying to make her escape from the base. Taking him to be one of the bad guys, she proceeds to get into a knock down, drag out fight with him. First she knocks his gun out of his hand, picks it up, and squeezes off a few shots at his head in anger. Then he tackles her, and the two of them roll into that big vat of murky liquid I referenced above after she knees him in the groin. She continues punching the poor dope after the plunge and only the timely intervention of the spider (!) saves the poor guy from further abuse at the hands of our little spitfire. The spider pulls him away from her and after Marci in turn drives the spider away from him with a messy sharp stick to one of the beast’s twelve eyes, she forms an uneasy alliance with him.
I’ll also point out here that the filmmakers have seemed to slowly peel away Marci’s mousy disguise as the film has progressed. I don’t know if this was intentional on their part or not, but she started the film with her nerdy glasses and frumpy, oversized shirt. Her glasses get broken in the chaos surrounding the spider’s first appearance underground. Her frumpy shirt got stuck to the spider web in the elevator shaft, and she had to make her escape without it. Now like the heart of an onion, outer layers have been pulled away to show her pearly essence. Dressed only in a tank top, and sans glasses at this point, it seems that the filmmakers thought we wouldn’t see how attractive she was until her prior trappings were well and truly gone. As an aside to the crazy fight described above, however, I don’t care how scrumptious the lady is: if she fires three bullets at some guy’s head, that guy’s going to be carrying one hell of a grudge (not to mention one hell of a load in his pants) whether she meant to hit him or not.
Fleeing the spider they run into Grey, but before the evil spook can cause them any harm, the spider reappears. She wraps up Grey with her web and proceeds to implant an egg in him. Off Marci and Murphy run, only to find the cocooned carcasses of the spider’s victims. We could knock the film here for ripping off Aliens, but in all honesty, spiders do in fact cocoon their prey to dine on at their leisure. In fact, we should really be blaming Aliens for ripping off ideas from the lowly spider. At this point, to make a long story short, Marci and Murphy tangle with the spider some in the elevator, but in the end manage to escape to the outside world.
You have to give this mess some credit. They really don’t tarry over anything long enough to let the thing become tedious. After escaping the base, Murphy and Marci head back to her college. My guess is that they are planning to expose the evil machinations of the government spooks housed nearby. However, this plan is short circuited when the pair enter the office of Marci’s editor only to find him dead on the floor and the evil Grey sitting in the chair at his desk. Evil spook or no, the guy’s got endurance. Even with a gut full of spider’s spawn, he’s still out causing trouble. His career comes to a messy close, however, when a new spider hatched in the guy’s belly bursts out of his body. If you think John Hurt had it rough, the spider that emerges from Grey is the same size as he is! Oddly, another movie about gigantified arachnids, Ticks, features just such a repulsive effect as an enormous tick erupts from the body of some hapless co-ed. The alien DNA that the spider possesses must allow it to bend the very fabric of space and time itself. It emerges from Grey with a length roughly corresponding to his height, say 6 feet. After everyone flees the building ahead of it, however, it busts through a wall and has clearly tripled its size at the very least.
The ensuing rampage is not badly done at all. There is a heavy reliance on CGI, but even that is pretty nicely spliced into real 3-D footage. The giant CGI legs flicking collegians across the grounds particularly impressed me. The CGI legs are obviously two dimensional, but it also seems that real three-dimensional actors were flung into the air for this footage. A real car crash has been staged that does indeed look to be caused by the digitally incorporated spider. The only real incoherence comes in the aftermath of Marci and Murphy finding the helicopter that Grey piloted to the college. The helicopter is stocked with a rocket launcher that fires depleted uranium shells. OK, I won’t quibble with this turn of events, even though a shady government spook would probably be better served by less cumbersome ordinance like shotguns. However, Murphy first lets go with a missile aimed at the rampaging spider, and after missing it, decides to take to the air in the chopper. The next thing we know its dark outside, and Marci and Murphy are flying around in the chopper looking for the spider. My question is – how did they lose the thing in the time it took to get into the helicopter and take off after it? How fast does that spider run? It sure seems that they could have spotted a monstrous rampaging spider the instant that they took off, and with the sudden change of day to night the filmmakers have certainly implied that much time has passed.
The spider has indeed reached the heart of the city proper. Once again, we must give the goofballs who made this film some credit, as the police in the city do seem to be reacting laudably. There are the requisite pedestrians fleeing in terror, yet the police do seem to have wisely cordoned off the city streets in order to isolate the venomous monster. Although gunfire doesn’t mortally wound the spider, she is in fact forced to flee from the shots by scuttling up the side of a building. Shades of King Kong you might say, but in fact the bristly beast is intent on laying an egg or two on the roof of this building, not spooning with Fay Wray. Murphy and Marci have caught up with the spider and because Murphy must man the controls of the helicopter, Marci must take it upon herself to employ the heavy artillery.
Murphy approaches the spider and Marci lets loose with the uranium shell. The damage done by the shell is negligible, and I’m not sure that we’re supposed to believe the beast’s hide is impenetrable, or that Marci simply missed with her first shot. There’s only one shell left after the miss, however, and Murphy attempts to move in closer. The spider rears up and damages the helicopter, knocking Marci off. Marci has tied a rope around her waist so she doesn’t plummet to her death. Nonetheless, I don’t care what kind of knot she tied, if she really fell as far as the movie indicates she would suffer severe internal injuries when the rope breaks her fall. She’s tougher than a space shuttle pilot and evil government spook rolled into one, however, and still has hold of the missile launcher after her plunge. While Murphy wrestles with the controls of the ‘copter to keep it from crashing, Marci draws a bead on the spider and as it rears up she fires a shell right down its throat. The monster’s ticket has been punched, and after the requisite explosion of slime our slippery protagonists sputter off to celebrate their victory.
Epilogue: In Celebration of B Movies
Now that this bugger has been rocked to sleep, I must explain my reluctance to savage the beast that I noted in my introduction. One of the reasons that I find harmless little B movies like this to be such fun is the acting. I say this with a completely straight face. I’m not being post-modern or cynical, taking ghoulish pleasure in laughably bad performances. On the contrary, what I enjoy are sincere and dedicated performances from the lovely B movie ladies that star in these films. B flicks like Spiders give actresses, that Hollywood would normally relegate to bit parts a chance to prove their mettle. I want to be crystal clear that I’m not craving exploitation here. None of the flicks we’ve seen demanded that their female leads appear nude or in sex scenes, and I have to give all three a great deal of credit on that ground alone. I’m as red-blooded as any other American male, but I still feel that filmmaking based around sleaze simply sad and dispiriting. On the contrary, all three of our USA Chow Time delicacies have given some quite pretty ladies the chance to ACT, ACT, ACT! They’ve been given the chance to hog that camera, make it love them, and make the film they’re in a success because of their charismatic performances. Whether they were successful on that score is a verdict that I will leave to posterity.
Spiders is particularly notable of the three USA features because the filmmakers cast one Ms. Lana Parrilla to play the female lead, Marci. I will argue the point if anyone wants to, but I don’t believe that I’m being all that controversial if I point out that a disproportionate number of female leads in Hollywood movies are given to blonde or fair-haired actresses. Many who would second this observation may want to attribute it to racial or ethnic prejudice, but frankly I’m not convinced that’s the sole reason. Even the whitest of white-bread brunette actresses are unlikely to snag a lead role in high-profile A films. As an example – and I will argue the point with Jabootu’s minions – I’m convinced that Courtney Cox’s charismatic performances in the Scream trilogy were greatly responsible for the success of those films. Even given this however, Scream is a genre film and I don’t think we’ll see Ms. Cox ever being considered to play the kind of leads offered to stars the likes of Helen Hunt, Jodie Foster, or Gwyneth Paltrow. Spiders’ Ms. Parrilla is unfortunately in the same boat as Ms. Cox. Make no mistake; she’s a very attractive young woman. Not only is Ms. Parrilla a natural brunette, however, she is also quite clearly a Latina. Thus I am afraid that – even were she the greatest actress since Ethel Barrymore – when Hollywood goes to cast its next hootily pretentious expose of the horrors of American suburban life, Ms. Parrilla would be very lucky indeed to land the role of Helen Hunt’s neighbor, Angie Ortiz. When the casting call goes out for actors to star opposite Anthony Hopkins in a dark, brooding psychological thriller, Ms. Parrilla would be lucky to briefly appear on screen next to Jodie Foster as Junior Agent Hernandez.
For the makers of B movies, however, the A rules serendipitously don’t apply. There’s no doubt that B movies are still top-heavy with towheads as witnessed by USA’s earlier Octopus and Crocodile. The poor knucklehead that’s been suckered into putting up his hard-earned moolah to back a movie about spiders mutated into giants by the injection of alien DNA, however, is not looking for the female lead to sell the project. I even cling to the naÃ”ve belief that movies like this may be cast by actually auditioning actresses and picking the ones who read best for the part, regardless of their hair color or ethnicity. Spiders merits even further plaudits by putting no emphasis whatsoever on Ms. Parrilla’s ethnicity – much less her hair color. I don’t think the screenwriter even gave even character a last name – much less one that might imply her ethnic roots. She’s certainly not forced to speak with a phony south-of-the-border accent or comically lapse into Spanish like Ricky Ricardo at times of stress. The character of Marci is also spared ethnically motivated confrontations with the rest of the characters in the film.
Personally, I find this attitude on the part of the makers of B movies extremely refreshing. What I’ve pointed out above may seem like nothing at all, but big-budget high-brow Hollywood types show such extreme political correctness that they can’t see anything but ethnicity or race when they go to cast their high-profile movies. I’m afraid that the only time Ms. Parrilla would get a casting call for some high-concept A movie would be if the script was written to demand the inclusion of a Latina woman. Furthermore, if this was the case its not implausible that she would have to fake an accent to draw attention to her ethnicity. Since Hollywood views the rubes in Middle America as irredeemably dim-witted and racist, she would most definitely have to suffer prejudice during the course of the film just so we understand that fact. And sadly if the film wasn’t written so as to draw attention to her ethnicity, Ms. Parrilla would most likely be chosen for some bit part just to make the subsidiary characters suitably multi-cultural in Hollywood’s eyes.
My fondness for Spiders then lies in the chance it gave to an adorable young lady to do nothing more than steal the show as an adorable young lady. There’s an innocent Little Rascals feel to the whole proceedings – all we need to put on a show is a pretty young actress, some reasonably handsome lug, a script and some big rubber spiders. We don’t have a bunch of pretentious Hollywood types feeling that they have to pound some enlightenment into our Neanderthalic, benighted little noggins. There’s no need for someone to be a victim, a stereotype, or token. Casting the part of a pretty young American college girl merely means finding a pretty young American lady who can act reasonably well and nothing more. So in conclusion – is Ethel Barrymore’s reputation safe in the aftermath of this flick? Well, as I said above, I’ll leave that to posterity to judge, but give credit to the makers of Spiders for giving Ms. Parrilla the chance to make her case.
This is about Spiders for your Jabootu thingy. I missed the first part because Psycho was on. I now just caught about 3 minutes of it and I refuse to watch anymore.
Some guy in a very horrible curly mullet with GLASSES was COMPUTING on his POWER COMPUTER. He got “HOOKED ONLINE!” and he was “IN NOW!”, they found out the killer spiders were shot up with “ALLLIIIIEEEEEN DeeeNA!”. Then I got a good look at the two other people in the room, some girl with big breasts and HERO with IN STYLE hair and LARGE BROAD SHOULDERS signaling he and the girl would be the only survivors in this movie, and I bet there is the evil TRAITOR who PLANNED IT ALL who will without a doubt get nibbled up by the spiders. Now that they found all of this out, its time for the computer nerd to die, cause, well, he’s not physically perfect (and he has glasses) so therefore he dies. The way he dies, I guess a spider bit him somewhere near the beginning cause he has a tear in his jeans and its bulging out and bleeding.
Well its badly cut up by the el cheapo USA Networks Censorship Board and in the control room slow motion he’s real silent then something….um…well he’s screaming he’s gonna die (COWARD!) and um, it’s really cut up and hard to tell what’s happening here, he says the ‘F’ word about 2 billion times so the scene skips around about 300 times. Then I changed the channel. Already know what’s going to happen. Seen this crap again and again. How come killer bug B-movies can’t be like the old ones? I remember this 70s killer spider movie where uber-spiders take over a fruit factory [Editor’s Note: Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo with Claude Akins) and its like, WHOA! THIS IS CHEESY AND IT KICKS &@*!!% ASS! It was real cheap, it was a bunch of overweight factory workers running from plastic spiders and dying after someone pelted them with fake spiders. Another great one was about KILLER FIRE ANTS that take over a hotel building [Editor Again: Ants aka It Happened at Lakewood Manor with Suzanne Sommers], it was cheap and badly acted but it sure as hell was more entertaining that what I just saw on USA.
Even worse, in a free magazine I got in the mail it had posters for… Crocodile 2, Spiders 2, and Octopus 2.
- The movie starts with a close-up of a spider. That’s not really important or anything, but, Yikes! A spider!
- Come to find out, it’s a NASA spider, being sent up on the space shuttle Solaris. I think “solaris” ought to be pronounced “so-lar-is” but everyone pronounces it “solar-is”. That just bugged me. (Get it? Har har.)
- All right, the main character is going to be Marci, a journalism student who has doe eyes, collagen lips, high cheekbones, and long legs (yawn, seen it before). Her friends are Jake, a hacker, and Slick (!), a photographer.
- Okay, this scene with the crazy people who think they’re aliens is the worst filler since Coldyron’s morning routine in R.O.T.O.R. However, it does lead us to an important plot point.
- Oh, come on, Slick? Slick? Who came up with that?
- It looks like spiders can self-propel themselves at people in zero gravity environments. On a side note, the scientist lady whacking a plastic spider on a string is a priceless moment. It’s supposed to simulate zero gravity but isn’t quite successful.
- So the code name for the spider is “Mother-In-Law,” eh? Methinks the writer has some issues with his (her?) spouse’s mother.
- Let me get this straight, the crazy alien couple pointed out an abandoned building where the government detained them after they arrived on earth. Marci and co. went there in search of a story. Then the Solaris just happened to crash at that very spot. What an amazing string of contrivances – er, coincidences.
- Marci says they must investigate the crash for survivors. I’m sure the sensational story she’ll get out of it is the furthest thing from her mind. Yeah, she’s only concerned about survivors. Uh-huh.
- The spooks show up driving jeeps. I thought all branches of the military had completely replaced jeeps with humvees.
- If I were on the run from evil government spooks and their military escort, I probably wouldn’t try to hide in the personnel carrier. It just seems kind of stupid.
- Oh, barf. Evil spook guy just shot a dissenter. That must have lowered the morale of his unit. Plus, that guy he just killed probably has some folks who’ll want to know why he’s suddenly sporting a .40 caliber hole in his chest. Is Evil Spook confident that the witnesses to the shooting won’t tell anyone? If not, he’ll have to kill them, too. Then he’ll have even more deaths to cover up. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying it would cause a lot more trouble than not having shot anyone at all.
- Let me get this straight: the crazy alien couple pointed out an abandoned building where the government detained them after they arrived on earth. Marci and co. went there in search of a story. Then the Solaris just happened to crash at that very spot. Then they just happened to jump in a meat wagon that took them to a secret underground facility. Then they were left alone so they could have opportunity to escape and explore. What an amazing set of contrivances. Yes, contrivances.
- Marci and co. seem to be confused about where they should go. I’d take the ramp that appears to be going up, or I’d look for a set of stairs. Then again, I’m not an intrepid journalist.
- Marci says they should follow the Evil Scientists who are toting the mutilated crash survivor to a lab. Because they should help him, you know. Slick raises the very valid point that they can’t possibly help him. However, Marci insists. If you could see the pilot, you would understand that Slick is absolutely correct. So I’m forced to believe that Marci is only interested in getting whatever story out of the poor guy she can. She should have openly admitted this. It would have made her seem a bit heartless, but it would also have made her seem much more intelligent. I’m betting the target audience of this movie would rather have a smart lead character than an emotional one. I know I would.
- How do they know that’s an alien baby in the specimen lab? I don’t see a sign anywhere that says “Alien Baby, Handle With Care.” For all they know, it’s a human baby that the Evil Scientists have experimented upon. Are we supposed to believe it’s alien because it looks like a stereotypical “alien,” with bulbous head and big, black eyes?
- Here I must digress a bit. When I visited the zoo once, I went to the sea lion habitat. There were some people there who were looking befuddled and disappointed. The man scratched his head and said, “Those don’t look like sea lions at all.” The woman followed with, “They don’t look anything like that on TV (emphasis hers).” If aliens landed tomorrow and didn’t look like the ones we see on TV, I’ll bet a lot of people would scratch their heads and say, “They don’t look like aliens at all. They don’t look anything like that on TV.” I find it disgusting that some people believe the images they see on a television screen more than what they see in real life with their own eyes.
- I’m not sure what got me on that tangent, but get on it I did.
- Slick, you might want to stop taking flash pictures. It might alert someone to your presence, you know.
- Darwinists would have a field day with this one. Marci, Jack, and Slick stand around and stare while a giant spider crawls out of dead guy’s throat, then proceeds to start blowing webs all over the place. The fight or flight response must be dead in the modern, city-dwelling, human being.
- It’s nice to know that if I’m ever bitten in the throat by an eighteen-inch long spider, I’ll live just long enough to sound an alarm, despite the huge holes in my carotid and jugular and the venom shot directly to my brain.
- When the trio finds a cryogenically frozen astronaut from Apollo 18, Marci objects that there was no Apollo 18. Marci, you’re in a secret, underground facility, on the run from giant spiders and government spooks, and you’ve already seen what you thought was an alien baby. Is the possibility of an Apollo 18 mission so hard to believe?
- Actually, it is. Back when space launches actually meant something to the public, how could the government manage to conceal one? Furthermore, why would they? Why not just have the launch a public fact and keep the mission secret, or conceal it behind another mission?
- Guys, you might want to close that cryo-chamber to conceal the fact you’ve been here.
- Note to the Writer: We’ll believe that Gray is evil even if he doesn’t shoot his own men. In fact, shooting his own men makes him seem like a moron, not evil. Try having him shoot some of the good guys instead.
- Instead of taking the stairs up until they find the elevator, why don’t Marci and co. just take them all the way to the top? It’s only about thirty floors. I can climb more than thirty floors and I’m fat and have asthma. Oh, wait, now that they’ve discovered large spider webs, they decide to keep going. I see a flaw in their logic.
- In an amazing plot twist, the nerd is the first of the heros to get bitten. The nerd always dies, unless he’s a handsome nerd, then he can live, because there’s no way a girl would go for a plain-looking guy, right? That just wouldn’t be believable.
- Wow, the spider died after falling several stories. I’m impressed. Oh, wait, it’s just molting. Darn, I thought I’d finally found a movie that knows the limitations of its monsters.
- If funnel web spiders are asexual, then they really ought to stop pretending to have distinct genders.
- When Jake learns he has about two minutes to live, Marci tells him that, “We’ll find a way out!” I doubt he cares.
- Note to the Writer, #2: It might seem dramatic to have characters in denial, wanting their loved ones to be okay even after finding a big puddle of blood and guts, but it just makes the characters seem dumb. It would be more intelligent and just as dramatic to have Marci breaking up over Jake’s obvious death.
- I’m slightly impressed. When Marci and Slick take the elevator, the security system arms because they didn’t enter the code. I figured they’d just ride out and then go through the “So what if we don’t have any proof!” thing with the news chief before the spooks and the spider caught up with them. But, no, the security systems arms, just like it should have. I’m further impressed that they don’t just punch in random numbers and happen onto the code. Good job, movie.
- I must digress again. It’s sad that a movie doing something right is the exception to the rule.
- Imagine dropping two ripe tomatoes from a height of, oh, twenty feet onto a tightly stretched fishing line. That’s right, they’d splatter. Now imagine dropping two humans a distance of about 120 feet onto a tightly stretched spider web that has higher tensile strength and doesn’t give as much. That’s right, they’ll be completely unharmed. Groan.
- Funnel web spiders don’t spin webs like that, anyway, they spin webs shaped like funnels (hence the name). Insects and other prey fall in the top and slide down the funnel into the waiting jaws of the spider. Now why couldn’t the movie have shown something like that? Instead of being (cough) stuck, Marci and Slick could have been scrambling to climb up the funnel while the spider killed them at its leisure. Marci still could have escaped by cutting through the web. I suppose, though, that what was filmed was less expensive.
- Hey, Marci, you got free by taking off your jacket. Never mind that your pants would have been stuck, too. Just help Slick get out of his jacket and he can get away with you. Too late, oh well. I do note that Marci fleeing while listening to Slick’s dying screams of agony is done well here. I seriously believe Marci will be haunted by that the rest of her life.
- Oh, wow! Murphy (the nice spook) just walked by the most obviously fake giant spider web I’ve ever seen.
- Note to the Writer, #3: I know you want to show female empowerment and all, but having Marci physically beat up Murphy, who is bigger, stronger, and a highly-trained government spook, is not the way to do it. Her sudden physical prowess is out-of-character. If you wanted it this way, you should have written some early scenes of Marci kickboxing, or practicing judo, or at the very least lifting weights. As it stands, the best way to have her defeat Murphy is by wielding a pipe or some other weapon against him. Having her launch a successful surprise attack and disarming him would be good, too.
- Note to the Writer #4: After establishing Marci as such a great humanitarian by sending her into the freshly crashed shuttle to look for survivors, having her follow the survivor into the lab to help him, and then making her insist upon trying to help Jake after finding his intestines spilled everywhere, you cannot have her make a 180 degree turn and attempt to kill Murphy in cold blood. If you want to show how the ordeal has hardened her, have her shoot him in the leg or the shoulder. The Marci from the beginning would not have turned into a murderer even after all she’s gone through. Besides, up to this point, she’s hardly been hassled by the spooks, only the spider. Therefore, she has less motivation to kill Murphy.
- Note to the Writer, #5: After having Marci make that 180 degree turn to cold-blooded murderess, you cannot have her swing all the way back and risk her life to save Murphy from the spider. Now, had the spider attacked while she was holding the gun on him, before it was obvious what she was going to do, this would work. Some dialogue to the effect of, “Nobody deserves to die by that thing. Not even you,” would establish that she didn’t rescue him for his own sake, she did it because she didn’t want to be haunted by any more screams. And it would be in character.
- Marci might not know anything about spiders, so I’ll cut her some slack for stabbing it in the eye. The eye is part of the cephalothorax, or “head” of the spider. There aren’t many vitals there. What she should have done was stab it in the abdomen, or “gut,” where it is soft and where most of its vitals are. Its heart, in particular, is a very easy target. Just stab the top of the abdomen toward the middle. Then again, this is also an alien/arachnid hybrid, so I’ll cut some more slack.
- Murphy, having decided that Gray is evil (well, duh!) pulls his gun on him. Problem #1) Marci took Murphy’s gun and dropped it. Maybe he had a spare. Problem #2) Murphy’s gun is empty, but the slide doesn’t lock back, indicating it was never loaded or cocked in the first place. Maybe he forgot to cock his spare. (That I’m making excuses for this movie might hint at the fact that I like it, despite its shortcomings.)
- Gray, if you survive this, I hope you learn not to put your arms at your sides when something is trying to wrap you up.
- I noticed this small detail during Murphy and Marci’s elevator ascent. The floor indicator on the elevator panel is going up from about thirteen to twenty. This is the same footage of the panel used earlier during Slick and Marci’s failed ascent. So what’s the problem? It’s also the same footage used even earlier during the meat wagon’s descent. Oops.
- If two, dirty, blood-soaked people ran into my office, I’d react with more than a, “Hey, where have you been?”
- Say WHAT? Gray is alive, and he’s killed Marci’s news chief! He escaped the spider, got out of the complex, and got here before Marci and Murphy somehow, then killed a man in a crowded office without anybody noticing! The man must be the best government spook in the history of government spooking!
- Oh, so Gray got to live just so we could see this crudely realized but neat effect of the spider tearing out of his body. Fair enough.
- I might have let it go with the first one, because it did eat a few people, but where did this spider get the mass to grow from about three feet long to about fifteen feet? How did it grow so fast? I think it has something to do with the alien DNA (and isn’t it just convenient that aliens have DNA that is completely similar and compatible with a terrestrial spider?) but the Law of Conservation of Mass still must be satisfied.
- The spider stomping on the guy who ducked underneath it is a nice touch.
- Hey, Mr. Campus Security Guy! See those rickety legs the spider is standing on? Drive your car headlong into them, you just might break them and make it bleed to death. Um, at least drive away now that it’s ripped the roof off your car. Too late!
- Marci and Murphy need a visit to the eye doctor, they didn’t see Gray’s chopper twenty feet in front of them. (Wow! Gray could fly a chopper too! He was awesome!)
- Wrong, Murphy, depleted uranium is used for its mass in high-velocity rounds and missiles, not explosive shells.
- Murphy missed the spider and blew up a building, instead. I guess we’re not supposed to think about all the people he probably just killed.
- Amazing! The police are reacting to the spider in a coordinated, efficient manner, and they’re managing to herd it away from crowded areas. This is so much better than the police’s reaction in a certain dinosaur movie. Wow! Now they’re shooting the joints in its legs and are actually hurting it!
- No wonder the rocket didn’t do any damage to the spider; it didn’t even cause any collateral damage to the building it was on. How powerful can it be?
- I must also point out that spiders don’t have lips, or proper mouths for that matter. Spiders eat by injecting their prey with venom that liquefies the internals, then they suck the juice out through their fangs or a small pipette between their jaws.
Easily the best of the “Chow Time” movies, and the only one I’d buy if it comes out on DVD. Some quibbles with the script aside, a thoroughly enjoyable b-movie, especially for giant bug fans like me.