Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Spinning a web of Terror! 5 Spider Horror Movies

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

  I realized that I don't do enough creature features, which is weird because I really enjoy a good monster movie and the more ridiculous the thing is, the better.  So, I thought I would kick it off with one of everybody's favourite creepy crawlers, the spider!  These arachnids have gotten a bad wrap for a long time and have had a number of films devoted to them.  Just because they have eight legs, can be hairy and have a face only a mother spider can love, doesn't mean there all bad, right?

Here are 5 Spider Horror films:



5. Horrors of Spider Island (aka Body in the Web) (1960) - On a trip to Singapore, the plane that Gary Webster and his group of dancing girls are on crash somewhere over the Pacific ocean.  Of course, they are the only survivors and after a few days they paddle themselves to a nearby island.  The next morning, they find some clean drinking water and explore the island.  They soon discover a "cabin in the woods" and when they go in, to their horror, find a dead man trapped in a gigantic spider web.  Gary cuts the man down and they toss his old decrepit carcass outside somewhere.  The girls come in and start cleaning up and Gary finds the dead man's diary.  Apparently, he was a professor of science and he was terrified of something in the woods, what a pussy.  After cleaning up the cabin, they find that with proper rationing they have enough food to last them a month.  That night, Gary gets caught messing around with one of the dancers and leaves in a huff.  He gets attacked by a giant spider and is bitten but luckily he is able to kill the spider before it's too late.  Or is it, the bite from the Spider turns him into a "Spider-man" or a "ManSpider" and the next day he kills one of the girls while they are searching for him.  This of course terrifies the girls, but not that much because the girl that was killed was kind of a bitch.  Man, woman can be catty.
  28 days later, the girls are getting worried but not worried enough to not frolic naked in the water.  Out of the blue, the professor's research team, which consist of two men, arrive with more supplies.  The girls are ecstatic, so they throw a party and then we spend 20 twenties watching people dance and having drunk relationship issues.  Will the story ever come back to horror movie that I started to watch, with a mutant spiderman killing beautiful dancing girls or am I to suffer through shitty melodrama about island romance?
  This is a very Cormanesque type of picture that starts off really well and then veers into oblivion.  The beginning is fun and what makes me laugh are the leapts of knowledge by the Gary character, which are astounding, like when they find a hammer next to a tree and he concludes that someone is mining uranium on the island.  Also, on Spider Island, there seems to be one spider, that's it, one fricken spider throughout the whole picture and it's a creepy fake spider, so really there are no spiders on Spider Island!
  It's really strange because once Gary, played by Alexander D'Arcy (Blood of Dracula's Castle, How To Marry a Millionaire) has been turned into a "Spidercreature", the film changes to it's real focus, showing good looking girls hanging out in their underwear, dancing and cat fighting with each other over clothes.  I'm not complaining but it's not what I was expecting and the film spends at least 20 minutes on relationship nonsense when the new guys show up to rescue them.  I don't give a fuck if Gladys can't trust men or if this the first time Joe has fallen in love.  I want to see a spider monster eat some people.
  Anyway, the monster makeup is cheap looking and it's most of the time you only see the claw hand trying to grab the girls.  There are so few deaths, which is a shame, especially since you have 8 girls and 4 guys on this deserted island.  However the campyness saves this from being a total waste of time and there are quite of few unintentional laughs.  Check it out if you love B-Movie/Drive Inn stuff.





4. Spiders (2013) - Debris filled with mutant spiders from a Soviet space station crashes into the tunnels of the New York subway system.  Subway station engineer, Jason and his ex wife, Rachel, who works for the Health department go down to investigate.  They discover that the corpse of a co-worker with giant spider eggs inside of him and then find that giant spiders have taken over the unused areas of the New York transit system.  That is a shitty day.  Can these two put away there differences and stop these Russian spiders before it's too late or will they be wrapped in a new web of terror?
  This was made in 3D or available in 3D but I only watched the HD version.  From director Tibor Takacs, who did "The Gate", which I loved,  comes this almost disappointing Spider movie.  You can tell that this team had a limited budget and put most of the money into the CGI spiders, which look good but not great.  From far away the spiders look awesome but when they get closer, they don't look real at all, which is a drag.  The script is all over the place and I lost interest in the characters shortly after starting the film.  They're not realistic at all and it's just another day in the life for soap actor Patrick Muldoon (Stigmata, Ice Spiders), who plays Jason and Christa Campbell (2001 Maniacs, Erotic Confessions) who plays his ex-wife, Rachel as they pass through their scenes of  trying to sort out this spider thing and rescue their daughter.
  There is a subplot with the Russian scientist and an American general that I didn't think got resolved and I don't think the army would allow a transit guy to access to some top secret areas.  Maybe I'm wrong, but once shit like that hit's ground level, the government locks the shit down.  I was surprised to see that this wasn't done by Syfy or Asylum because that's what it reminded me of, however it does have better production values.  With that said, the spider violence is alright and there are some funny ridiculous moments that might make you chuckle.  It might be better in 3D but I doubt it.




3. Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) - After a mysterious death of a cow, local vet "Rack" Hansen enlists gorgeous arachnologist, Diane Ashley help him uncover a number of dirt piles filled with spiders.  Unfortunately, after burning the first hill, the spiders decide to fight back and give the town a story to spin for ages.  Can "Rack" and Diane stop this horde of spiders in time for the local harvest festival or will the spiders destroy this small farm community?
  William Shatner (Visiting Hours, The Devil's Rain) stars as "Rack" Hansen and he battles those spiders like he's fighting the toughest Klingon.  The script is pretty good and Shatner has not one but two ladies who dig him, one of happened to be his real life wife Marcy Lafferty (Impulse, Star Trek: The Motion Picture).
  This is the only film on the list that the spiders don't mutate and it's actually refreshing to see regular spider cause this much terror.  This was made in the 70's, so they used hundreds and hundreds of real spiders, which they threw on the cast.  My favourite scene is when the town goes apeshit and are trying to escape.  One of the best panicky town scenes ever.  There is a surprisingly large body count and no one is left alone.  Women, children and the elderly are all mauled by these tiny predators, which is also a nice change.  The end is not so great and I guess the writers ran out of ideas but getting there was pretty fun.  This film gets a lot of flack but it is a really enjoyable spider flick and a must see for any Shatner fan or horror buff.





2.Tarantula (1955) - Dr. Matt Hastings is asked to come to the mortuary to identify and determine the cause of death of a disfigured pajama wearing man found in the desert.  To everyone's disbelief, they discover that it is Eric Jacobs, local scientist and pajama aficionado, who as been working in conjunction with Professor Deemer on some secret experiments.  Matt tells the sheriff and the mortician that it looks like acromegaly, which is a rare pituitary gland disorder that increases growth in random body parts but it would take years to have grown this badly and he had just seen him last week and Jacobs looked fine.  Professor Deemer arrives shortly afterwards and identifies Jacobs and leaves in huff because Hastings is argueing with him and old people don't like that.
  Back at home where he is king, Professor Deemers walks through his laboratory and admires his abnormal creatures that he has grown with his serum.  He has a Guinea Pig, the size of a police dog, a very large rabbit and an incredibly large tarantula all caged up in his room.  Unfortunately, Dr. Deemers has not only been experimenting on animals but secretly with people as well because he is attack by his mutated lab assistant and injected with the serum.  They fight in the laboratory, breaking a number of cages and starting a fire, which gives the big tarantula a chance to escape.  The lab assistant, too weak from his mutation dies in the melee and Dr. Deemer buries him in the backyard, next to his oversized gerbil, Fluffy.
  Luckily, college student/lab assistant, Stephanie "Steve" Clayton arrives the next day to replace Dr. Deemer's mutated one but she has no way of getting to his far away lab from the city.  Good thing Dr. Matt Hasting is there and offers to give her a ride up to the old Deemers place.  After he drops her off and gets back to town, the sheriff asks him to take a ride out to a farm to look at some mighty peculiar cow deaths.  Eventually, they discover that a giant tarantula is devouring livestock and people!  Can Dr. Matt and "Steve" stop this giant Spider before it eats this delightful town or will this spider want to stay and lay a thousand new creepy residents in the town?
  This movie was a ton of fun to watch.  I love these 1950's atomic monster stuff, like Them! and The Beast from 20, 000 Fathoms.  Director Jack Arnold (Creature From The Black Lagoon, It Came From Outer Space) does a fantastic job bringing this spider story to life and even though the special effects in this film are somewhat simple, compared to things made today, they still holds up very well and are scarier than stuff today.  The script is well done and as some good nuances, but it does take a little while for the giant spider to show up.  John Agar (Nightbreed, The Brain from Planet Arous), who plays Matt Hastings, is your standard 50's hero, not afraid of the unknown, has an open mind and can be very charming to Mara Corday (The Black Scorpion, Sudden Impact), who plays Stephanie Clayton.  Also, Alfred Hitchcock regular, Leo G. Carroll (North By Northwest, Spellbound) plays the villainous, Dr. Deemer and he makes him extra evil.  Clint Eastwood is uncredited but he is one of the airforce pilots sent out to stop the monster.  This is a great monster movie and a must see for any one who loves big monsters.   

 



1. Eight Legged Freaks (2002) - So, a barrel of toxic waste falls off a truck and into a creek in Prosperity, Arizona.  At the same time, local boy Mike visits his much much older friend Josh, an exotic spider farmer.  Josh shows him his trap door spiders, his jumping spiders and variety of other deadly insects, including his female orb weaver, named Consuela.  Late for school, Mike takes off and Josh is bitten by one of his spiders.  While trashing in pain, Josh knocks over all of the cages and releases the spiders upon the unsuspecting town.
  A week later, the police find the barrel and while removing it from the creek, Sheriff Samantha Parker discovers that her son Mike is on his way to check on his old friend Josh, who he hasn't heard from in a week.  She reminds Mike that he isn't allowed to play with creepy middle aged men and puts him in the back seat of her cruiser, then heads for heads for home.  On the way, a group of teen dirt bikers come screaming down the highway and when she pulls them over, she finds her daughter, Ashley with this preppy but motley crew of trouble makers.  Now with both kids in the back seat of her cruiser, she heads home, unsuspecting of the real terror that awaits.  Meanwhile local boy, Chris McCormick returns home to search his family's mine for gold and find his true love again, who happens to be Samantha Parker.  He returns after a 16 year hiatus after he left because of a fight with her cheating boyfriend.  Only a day back and he gets arrested at a town meeting for slugging the mayor.  I think Chris McCormick has anger issues.  Anyway, this reunites Samantha and Chris and they decide to go for coffee some time.  Way to pick'em, Sam!
  Another week goes by and Mike still hasn't heard from his older man friend, so he goes to visit him.  There he discovers the place is in shambles and finds a mutated spider leg on the ground.  He hitches a ride back to town and is picked up by local miscreant and his mother's new love interest, Chris McCormick.  Mike tries to explainn to Chris about the giant spider leg but Chris thinks the kid is making up stories and drops him off at home.  When Chris arrives home, he finds that his Aunt has gone into the mine tunnel that is behind their basement wall(?) and discovers another giant spider leg.  Chris freaks out and goes to warn Mike, Samantha and the whole town but it's too late.  Giant spiders have started to attack the town.  Can Chris and Samantha stop this spider take over or will their small mining town get laid to waste?  
  Although pretty silly, this was a good film.  Ellory Elkayem (ROTLD: Necropolis, ROTLD:Rave to the Grave) really captured the spirit of the B-movie, big creature theme and created something fun.  Lots of notable people in this, like David Arquette (Scream, Ravenous ) who plays Chris McCormick, Kari Wuhrer (Thinner, Anaconda) who plays Samantha and a young Scarlett Johansson (Home Alone 3, My Brother the Pig) who's career seem exploded after being in this movie, potraying the teenage daughter, Ashley.  The script is good and pretty light but my only issue is that every building in the town seems to have a entrance connecting to the mines, which is really weird.  Also, Doug E. Doug (Cool Runnings, Dr. Giggles), who plays a paranoid DJ gets really annoying after a while.
 The special effects are done well and they use a good combination of real spider shots and CGI, as well as manufactured spider legs that they use to attack the actors with.  Although this is a horror/comedy, there still is an enormous body count and there are some terrifying spider attack scenes.  The ending is good and it's nothing I wouldn't expect for any other B-move.  This is a fun popcorn movie that is worth a second watch.




So, the next time you see one of these creatures creeping across the floor or feel a set of hairy legs crawling up your arms, remember that there may be more behind the wall and with just a little radiation, you never know how big they can get! 



 

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