The first giant spider movie I ever saw was Earth Vs. The Spider (1953). It aired on Science Fiction Theater one Saturday afternoon. I was blown away by it, and very creeped out. Growing up, insects and spiders fascinated me. They still do. Somewhere along the way, I also watched Tarantula (1955), and then in the early 80s I caught the schlockfest that is The Giant Spider Invasion (1975). I enjoyed the hell out of those two as well.
Modern day giant spider flicks are few and far between. Really good ones, I mean, but every once in a while filmmakers will leap back on that eight-legged bandwagon and try their hand at entertaining us monster movie fans. The latest influx of these movie, I can remember, started with Gary Jones’ (Mosquito) film, simply titled Spiders, in 2000. Then there was Arachnid grabbing my interest a year later, followed by the abysmal Eight Legged Freaks putting a disappointing capper on the whole resurgence in 2002. I saw all three of those movies and the only one I was thoroughly entertained by was Spiders. Arachnid should have been the superior, with its researchers being besieged by an alien arachnid on a remote island plot, but I remember being really disappointed in the spider FX, despite the fact that most of it was practical. It was like they spent all the money on the mandibles and forgot about the rest of its body.
Here we are in 2013, and another resurgence is upon us. Slated for home video release in May is Christopher R. Mihm’s homage to those 50s spider flicks, The Giant Spider (trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeMHg5IaUg8); doing the festival circuit at the moment is Mike Mendez’s Big Ass Spider (trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSlNiSEWqwQ), which, sadly, brings to mind the worst things I didn’t like about Eight Legged Freaks—all the comedy! But first to hit DVD, Blu-ray and 3D blu-ray is Tibor Takac’s (The Gate, The Gate II) Spiders 3D.
Initially, I heard that Spiders 3D was a remake of Gary Jones’ 2000 movie. Then in interviews the screenwriters indicated it wasn’t. There’s obviously some behind-the-scene connection as the same production company, Nu Image, was involved and both share the same two producers, Boaz Davidson and Avi Lerner. Now having seen both versions, I would categorize this new flick as more of a companion piece, or if you like, a remote sequel. I would even go so far as to say it could act as a prequel.
There is also an on-screen similarity in the origin of the giant spiders. In the 2000 flick, the US government was conducting gene-splicing experiments, splicing an ordinary tarantula with alien DNA. In the 2013 version, we learn that Russia discovered a downed alien craft deep under the ice in the Caucasus Mountains (homage to Carpenter and Hawkes’ The Thing) and for reasons unknown, decided to splice the DNA of the aliens found inside with earthly creatures. It’s explained that their DNA was only compatible with the spider. The goal here was to harvest the alien spider webbing to create state of the art body armor. In the 2000 movie, the goal was to create giant spiders that could be unleashed upon an enemy in war.
The opening of Takacs’ film shows an abandoned Russian space station crawling with ordinary spiders and long dead crewmembers, now floating skeletons in their space suits. Earth knows nothing of what the Russians were up to until an innocent meteor crashes into the space station, sending a chunk of it hurtling towards Earth and right into the New York subway.
The movie focuses on Transit Authority Supervisor, Jason Cole (Patrick Muldoon/Starship Troopers), his ex-wife, Health Inspector Racheal Cole, and their twelve year old daughter, Emily (Sydney Sweeney). Like the 2000 film, the movie hits all the spider sizes; normal ones that take down some poor guy which had me reminiscing about Kingdom Of The Spiders (1977), then man size, and finally, at roughly the hour mark, you get the rampage of the Kong size “Queen” Spider that the military is completely ineffective against. It had me thinking about any Godzilla movie where modern artillery is just shrugged off by the monster at large.
The military does show up, lead by Colonel Jenkins (William Hope from Aliens and Hellbound: Hellraiser II fame), with Russian scientist, Dr. Darnoff (Peter Lee-Wilson), in tow, and as they cultivate and try to keep the growing spiders contained in the subway’s underground, things get out of hand. This is putting it mildly. As their Queen grows and gestates, the man-sized spiders migrate to the surface and begin killing any human they come into contact with, which at this point in the movie are all military personnel.
I noticed a few plot elements/homages woven into the movie. When the military first arrives, their cover story is that a virus has been set loose by the fallen space station chunk. Eventually Jason and Rachael, who know the truth, are confronted as Shawnee Smith and Kevin Dillion were in The Blob (1988), except here the results aren’t as dramatic. Once the Queen surfaces and begins laying waste to all of New York, we get a nice War Of The Worlds (1953) vibe as Jason and Rachael race through destroyed streets to find their missing daughter. The couple is even confronted by the military and told to get out while the gettin’s good. That scene had me thinking about a similar one in which Gene Berry is racing through the post apocalyptic streets in Worlds to find Ann Robinson and is stopped by the military and urged to flee. And finally I noticed a nice Mimic (1997) homage where a derelict subway car is briefly used as a hide out and then eventually as a catalyst to a fiery explosion. The roar of the Queen even had a little bit of Gorgo (1961) in it, I must say.
My main concern before seeing the film was how the CGI was going to look. Nowadays this kind of monster movies live and die based on how well the CGI is done. If these spiders are going to look like a SyFy channel movie, forget it, I’ve no interest in seeing it. But that first trailer put my mind to rest, and now that I’ve finally seen the computer generated spiders up close, I was very impressed with what these filmmakers managed to get on screen. Very detailed, even to the point of giving the spiders proper realistic shadows under the various lighting. Even in close ups, a majority of the CGI was very detailed and believable.
I get the impression that this movie was filmed with an R-rating in mind. Despite the gore that made it into the film, there’s a quick cut of an impalement on one of the Queen’s appendage that feels out of place. It’s obvious the impalement happened, but it cuts right at a point where you’d expect the scene to continue and show it going through the body. The whole scene inevitably ends right at the point where poor Dr. Darnoff is about to be eaten. More obvious editing can be seen in a dialogue exchange between actor, Muldoon, and an army grunt that says, “I know it’s up…”
I rewound the scene and when I clicked on the subtitles, I saw, “I know it’s fucked up….” My guess is they decided to edit just enough language and gore from the movie to get them a PG-13. This didn’t bother me too much, aside from the blatant swear word audio drop out, but, hey, this movie is about getting your jollies watching giant spiders lay waste to us puny humans, and since it succeeds 100% in that regard, the minimal gore edits didn’t bother me.
One more thing. When it was making the festival rounds, the movie was being touted as Spiders 3D, the DVD and blu-ray packaging has dropped the 3D, but when the title comes up in the actual movie, the 3D is right there on display. Just an odd inconsistency I thought I’d mention. Not sure why they even dropped the 3D from the packaging in the first place.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is slick looking, and the audio (True-HD 5.1) was just as perfect. Included is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track.
For extras there is ‘Web Of Terror: The Making Of Spiders 3D’ (6:05) that covers all the bases one would expect, but kind of reminds me of the kind of fluff piece you see on HBO. The ‘Cast And Crew Interviews’ (12:53) is basically the unedited interviews the Making Of is dotted with. Tibor Takacs, Patrick Muldoon, Christa Campbell, Sydney Sweeney and William Hope are all interviewed, and last the ‘Behind The Scenes’ (12:50) featurette is basically that, behind-the-scenes footage of many scenes that were shot. Trailers for Spiders 3D, Straight A’s, The Paperboy, Little Birds, and So Undercover are included.
Not sure how many of those homages were intentional, but I loved them all, and the movie hit me right where I needed to be hit for it to make it into my collection.