SPIDERS (2000)

TAGLINE: “The future of the human race hangs by a thread!”

IMDB Rating: 3.7/10

The true scale of the Herculean task we have undertaken is unavoidable. In fact, it may be more Sisyphean than Herculean. Our destination is little more that a tiny speck on the distant horizon, a cooling oasis in a desert of warm poo that remains so far away, it seems somehow unreal. Conversely, and perversely, the present is all too real – worse luck.
We’re ten films down and every single one of them has been complete b*llocks. Our quest is far from complete but we feel as though we’ve already had a lifetime surgically extracted… …without the sweet benefit of anesthetic. Even so, an educated guess would suggest that in order to drag ourselves forward, we may be dragged down yet further.

So it is in the spirit of our current malaise that the decision on our next movie is made with a pertinent sense of masochism. If the pair of us can be personified as Paul Bettany’s psycho albino monk in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ – then ‘Spiders’ is the nasty looking barbed chain strapped to his upper thigh.[1]

The front of the DVD – a pretty garish 50s-tinged arachnid that could either be the size of a house or just very close to the camera – screams “CLUNKER!!!” while the back claims that “something very hungry is about to hatch.” We can’t help thinking that it’s looking to slake that hunger on what remains of our souls – or, at the very least, our youth.

But then something magical happens. Save for a few dicey model shots during the opening space shuttle crash, and some early expository scenes apparently written in green crayon by a chimp wearing boxing gloves – it’s actually not bad. Yes, it’s plotted with all the expertise of a prom night fumble, and the acting has us in mind of a particularly nasty root canal procedure – but the filmmakers set their stall out early to create a movie that both embraces and condemns a whole bunch of monster movie conventions and, for the most part, they achieve their goal admirably.

The plot sees a crusading young journalist investigating the disappearance of the wreckage of a NASA shuttle after it crash lands on her watch. Following clues to a secret government facility buried underneath the California desert, and accompanied by a pair of less-than-effective colleagues, she soon discovers the Shuttle’s only survivor has returned to Earth impregnated with the eggs of a cosmic spider. Of course, all hell breaks loose and it’s up to our brave heroine to escape before becoming part of Charlotte’s next mutant web.

For a film rooted in such forgettable 50s horror B-Movie standards – government experiment gone awry, space race as metaphor for invading foreign agents, improbable small town hero stands up to be counted – the biggest direct lift comes from something a lot more celebrated. Back in 1979, precious few of the audience settling in with their popcorn for Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ had any idea what was going to happen next when John Hurt’s coughing fit turned nasty. In ‘Spiders’ though, rather than an 18 inch phallic alien it’s a 4 foot arachnid…and rather than it ripping through stomach, this baby is getting born orally.

It barely lasts 5 seconds but it’s definitely the best thing we’ve seen in almost 1,000 minutes manacled to the leatherette sofa we’ve come to know as home. It’s unexpected, audacious and very cheesy but this one moment more than justifies the 89 minutes we’ll spend watching ‘Spiders.’

Now of course there’s a fairly justifiable argument that the horrors which have previously befallen us during the course of this project may have an effect on the generosity we’re showing to ‘Spiders.’ The very fact that the curve we’re marking on has, so far, been more of a vertical line (even “downward spiral” is probably too generous a description) means that even the slightest flicker that arrested the decline was always going to be greeted with a certain amount of munificence on our part.

Fair enough – as soon as they grab us with that awesome hatching scene they completely shoot their bolt with some pretty ropey spidey CG, and the less said about the third act rampage on the streets of LA the better, equally the inclusion of the line “Its like a bad sci-fi movie” is just asking for trouble – but you can’t help thinking that when the tongue is this far in the cheek, you can just about get away with it.

Maybe that’s the difference between ‘Spiders’ and the decalogue of absolute crap that has preceded it. Infused with this amount of pragmatic self-aware fun – as opposed to the turds we’ve endured thus far – its hard to come away disappointed.

Many years from now, when death is gently beckoning them, those who brought us ‘Spiders’ can greet their maker safe in the knowledge that there will always be at least 10 films worse than theirs – and by the time we’ve completed our odyssey, we’re sure that gulf will be even wider.

[1]Yes, we know, it’s called a cilice. At least one of the authors is very, very Catholic and knows about as much as there is to know about guilt and self-flagellation – er… of the mind, obviously.

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