Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Spiders 3D

Spiders 3D (2013)
Dir. by Tibor Takács
Written by Joseph Farrugia, Tibor Takács, Boaz Davidson, Dustin Warburton
Starring Patrick Muldoon, Christa Campbell, William Hope

That this no-budget bargain-basement-CG Bulgarian-shot giant-spiders-vs-tanks opus is incompetent and idiotic should come as a surprise to no one. This is not a film which you can reasonably watch and then complain to your friends that it was unrealistic and that the stilted acting and inconsistent character motivation really made it hard to connect with the drama. Those things may be true, of course, but the problem is not the product, the problem was your expectations. It’s like complaining that Taco Bell’s flavor-basted doritos locos lack a sense of authentic Mexican regional cuisine. You did not choose to watch THE VVITCH. You chose to watch SPIDERS 3D. You knew what you were doing.

Fortunately, SPIDERS 3D also more or less knows what it’s doing, or at least it gets the job done by accident within acceptable parameters. This is a goofy, blessedly stupid b-movie creature feature which flits from one ridiculous plot turn to the next with the consistency of a game of drunken telephone in a loud bar among fifteen or so people who don’t speak the same language. But at least it does so in the service of stringing together as many scenes as possible which feature cartoony CG spiders eating people. If that’s what you would like to see, SPIDERS 3D will deliver that function with at least a minimal competency (in 3D where available!). If not, how in the hell did you end up watching a movie called SPIDERS 3D in the first place? I mean, it’s not like Hollywood rammed this one down your throat with 18 months of grueling advertising and inescapable commercial tie-ins. No, you had to find this one yourself. And it tells you exactly what it offers right there in the title. It offers exactly that, and nothing more.

I can’t really imagine there will be a lot of people who are ultimately glad they made the effort, but as far as brainless, unimaginative creature features go --and I label it such mostly affectionately-- this is probably in the middle of the pack. In most ways it’s noticeably more watchable than the majority of SyFy channel efforts in a similar vein, though unmissably inferior to even nominally real movies like EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS (though at least those SyFy ones got the idea of sweetening the pot by crafting their own melange of boutique CG monsters, like SHARKTOPUS and probably LEOPARDILLO by now. Say, has anyone ever done a NIGHT OF THE LEPUS-style creature feature about killer armadillos called ARMADILLO ARMAGEDDON? They should).

Anyway, that’s what’s being offered here; just a breezy hour 29 minutes of goofy nonsense and corny-looking CG spiders eating people. That’s what you get, take it or leave it. If you would enjoy that sort of horseshit, SPIDERS 3D has it, though not always in a high enough dose or in a creative enough combination to distinguish itself amongst a rather crowded menagerie of similar efforts which offers significantly better options (though few indeed that would rise to the level of “good” when compared to a real movie)

Still, there’s some ironic enjoyment to be had here, which is a rare enough thing in the mostly-grimly-serious modern horror scene that it offers some slight charm. Hilariously daffy lines readings abound (“but, dad, it’s, my, birthday,” says our on-screen daughter, clearly the niece of a producer) in a world which perpetually threatens to plunge headfirst into open camp without ever quite ruining things by doing so. Most of the cast is too bland to really take this opportunity as an excuse for some hammy overacting, but at least you’ve got Pete Lee-Wilson (BLADE 2!) as an eccentric spider-obsessed Russian scientist. In a better world he’d be played by Peter Stormare, of course, but we do not live in that world.

Speaking of which, as you probably already imagined, this is exactly the kind of movie which would have an eccentric Russian scientist character, and also certainly a “Col. Jenkins,” plus the obligatory regular-guy blue collar hero and his powerfully dull family who are going to be brought together by this crisis (Patrick Muldoon, STARSHIP TROOPERS, Christa Campbell, DRIVE ANGRY, Sydney Sweeney, THE WARD). It’s not a script which is much interested in tweaking with conventions. In fact, it’s such a natural extension of 1950’s nuclear monster/ giant bug movies that one can’t help but wonder if the script (credited to an unbelievable four writers, including director Takács and longtime Hollywood hustler/Golan-Globus co-conspirator Boaz Davidson) was just found behind some old boxes in a warehouse and brushed up to include the word DNA and delete any stray references to Communism or Beatniks. Hell, they even waited long enough that the Russians can be the bad guys again!

Incidentally, this is the second movie in a row I've watched where Soviet-era space experiments falling to earth have created giant people-eating mutant monster hybrids. Is this something I ought to worry about?

Allow me to explain: because it would be impossible to come up with a movie where killer spiders eat people and not use four movies’ worth of plots to explain it, it seems that 20 years ago... Russians found an alien spaceship “under the ice” and decided the best course of action would be to reconstitute alien DNA in the form of modern animals, why not? And for some reason reconstituting alien DNA apparently worked best in spider bodies, which they then shot into space so they could harvest their harder-than-steel webbing for the kind of fearsome game-changing military advantages that only very tough spider webs could provide (this supposedly impervious webbing later proves surprisingly easy for a child to tear apart, but nevermind that). Then nothing happened for 20 years. But now, the Russian spider-space-alien-web experiment has fallen back to Earth, and the spiders are going to take over (where else?) a part of New York City which looks somewhat like Bulgaria. Granted, all that makes perfect sense. But there’s also a US military conspiracy of, I guess, spider collaborators, to cover up the killer spiders by claiming there’s actually a deadly plague on the loose and murdering everyone who knows the truth! Damn their oily Spider-collaborating hides! But you do have to admire their optimism that a swarming army of rampaging murderous giant alien spiders could be mistaken for a viral outbreak, by anyone, anywhere. I mean, I’m no trained scientist, but I’m convinced I could pick out the difference. Anyway eventually our hero Patrick Muldoon has to kill a giant alien queen spider with a train, obviously, and that seems to solve it, whatever was going on.

OK, not the most elegant plot for a movie whose only purpose is to deliver killer spiders (wait, did you catch that? Killer alien spiders! Talk about burying the lead!) and honestly that still leaves out most of the main characters and huge chunks of plot. The wikipedia plot description is well in excess of 1000 words, making it longer than Symbols and Signs by Vladimir Nabokov, A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, George Orwell’s widely-read Shooting An Elephant, and of, course, Hemingway’s beloved The Snows of Kilimanjaro. You can look at that as a tiresome failure of storytelling, or you can just have fun with its freewheeling kookiness. Your choice; obviously I made mine long ago. If you’re inclined to have fun with it, something ridiculous is almost constantly happening, and goofy-looking CG spiders are almost never far from the screen, so while I acknowledge that this is fundamentally indefensible from any imaginable artistic standpoint, I also can’t quite find it in my heart to complain. If anything, it ought to have pushed just a little further into full-on dada. We were so close!

The “spiders” themselves have an agreeably funny not-really-very-spider-like design, but they move badly, it’s immediately obvious they don’t walk like real spiders (which is 90% of spiders’ real-life creep factor and completely absent here). How is it possible that in 2015 we haven’t figured out how to make insects consistently look like they’re walking naturally? I mean, footage of real spiders exists, guys. Look at that, and then look at what you’ve done, and try and tell me this is even a reasonable approximation. These spiders look like they really don’t know what to do with all those legs and are constantly trying to figure out which one needs to move next. I guess maybe the fact that they’re alien spiders explains it? This is awkward for them, too. Anyway it’s pretty funny-looking, and fortunately the movie compensates for its dodgy CG and uncoordinated walking by offering plenty of the title character, even if near the end it unforgivably cuts away from a military-vs-huge-spider city-street dustup to halfheartedly pretend we care if these bland morons are going to find their daughter somewhere underground (we don’t, and incidentally all she had to do to avoid this situation was nothing, apparently a task which was too difficult for her). It’s not really imaginative enough to think of any really outrageous hijinks --either cool or hilarious--, but it moves along at a decent pace and you can’t fault its consistency as a generic spider-delivery system.

This is not a good movie, obviously, and in fact I think it’s a distinct possibility that it’s not even as good as the director’s other giant spider movie, 2007’s ICE SPIDERS (which now that I look, also stars Patrick Muldoon. Wait, is this a sequel? I can find no evidence that it is). But SPIDERS 3D was never going to be good, the best it was ever conceivably going to be was fun, which I guess it sort of is in a dumb time-wasting lazy hungover Sunday afternoon kind of way. The only thing that makes it kind of a bummer is the director -- Tibor Takács was at one point in his career actually capable of directing horror movies which were both fun and good, like I, MADMAN and THE GATE. OK, he never had the most distinguished career (good lord, he directed two episodes of Police Academy: The Series! That has to be the saddest sentence I’ll type all day) but seeing him reduced to this kind of adorably incompetent non-movie is a little disheartening. Even as recently as 2005, his SyFy Channel MANSQUITO kind of resembled a real movie while still being ludicrous fun. Not so here; you’d never guess the guy who made SPIDERS 3D ever had the slightest actual artistic inclination. He doesn’t even get cute with the 3D or anything; this is generic hack work through and through, but with 3D spiders. But oh well, if brisk, silly creature features are your thing, this one is mostly eventful and enthusiastic enough to get the job done.

Play it Again, Samhain

Eight Legs. Three Dimensions. One Disaster.
None, unless it actually is a sequel to ICE SPIDERS. Patrick Muldoon has a different name, though, so I’m thinking not.
Shot in Bulgaria, but it looks like an American crew.
Tibor Takács?
Spiders, some very large
Dessicated corpses? Alien-Spider DNA hybribs!?

Rightly obscure.
There’s seriously got to be an easier way to get really strong threads.
Well, by the time I saw it the 3D was gone, but “SPIDERS” by itself doesn’t have the same cache. Also, shouldn’t the title mention they’re aliens?

A somewhat affectionate 2, but I can't in good conscience go any higher.

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