Spiders (2013) DVD Review: It’s Only Bad If You Watch It

I realize the irony (and possibly the hypocrisy) in bashing a sci-fi horror movie for being unrealistic or inconsistent, but I have to do it. Tibor Takacs’ Spiders starts with a kernel of tolerable nonsense, but derails along the way by doing things that should be hilarious, but are not meant in jest.

We kick off here with a blend of monsters from space, Arachnophobia, and Volcano, as a chunk of Russian satellite is broken off by passing space rock, and plummets to Earth. It streaks across the New York City skyline and bores a nice hole in the street just above a subway tunnel. Patrick Muldoon resumes bug-bashing duty from his Starship Troopers and Ice Spiders days as Jason, an emergency response coordinator for the NYC transit system, and the scene of him directing resources from HQ has shades of Tommy Lee Jones’ character Mike Roark in Volcano (1997). Jason also has a daughter, and his wife Rachel (Christa Campbell) apparently wants a divorce. I mention this with as much significance as the movie gives it — mentions once, never bothers with again. Nice “borrow” of Twister‘s divorce subplot, except that in that movie it actually goes somewhere. The divorce bit in Spiders actually surprised me, because it’s not really clear that there’s a ton of animosity between Jason and his literal (in real life, not in the movie) Playboy model wife.

Shortly after the first responder turns up dead not far from the impact, the military quarantines the area, but not before Rachel sneaks out some queen spider eggs. Enter the obligatory government/military conspiracy to build a biological weapon out of the space spiders, and that they were the ones who put them up in space decades earlier. Doctor Stella (Jon Mack) and Colonel Jenkins (William Hope) quickly and predictably arrive at odds with one another, each trying to prove himself the alpha. It’s frivolous at best. The goons spread some lies about a virus in the area to scare civilians away, then start “collecting samples” for “research.” What they’re really doing is looking for the queen eggs that Rachel stole. They eventually recover them, then later throw in some arbitrary “kill some random people at the board of health” scene with a guy in a suit with a silenced pistol. They’re trying to cover up what they’re really up to, but ever found out it was a conspiracy anyway, and no one was investigating it at that point anyway, so the whole thing came off forced and confusing. That, or the board of health is made up of spies and super soldiers that pose a serious threat to them and the movie completely forgot to mention that.

Jason and Rachel’s daughter Emily (Sydney Sweeney) is isolated with her babysitter in their apartment, which just happens to be smack dab in the middle of the quarantine zone. In one of many completely pointless scenes, she and the babysitter sneak out through some secret window in a closet to a balcony/fire escape that goes nowhere (much like the rest of the flick). Eventually, a previously duty-bound marine guarding Emily has a completely inexplicable change of heart and lets her go, conveniently right before a spider breaks in and would have forced them to flee anyway.

The whole military/bio-weapon plot falls apart as the goon squad, Jenkins, and Stella are overrun by spiders. They use machine guns and bazookas and tanks and grenades, but can only barely slow the advance of the octo-pods. However, Jason manages to kill two spiders on his own armed with only a forklift, and keeps the queen at bay with a stick. This is clearly the man we need running our militaries. These same spiders can snatch people up off the sidewalk or out of the air by flinging webs at or leaping toward them, yet Jason and Rachel can outrun the spiders by slowly climbing a ladder attached to the side of a building. The beasts completely work around what’s convenient for the protagonists here, and never does someone survive because they outwitted their antagonist.

Eventually the queen gets loose and busts up through the street to begin her reign of terror. In this case, “reign of terror” means walking aimlessly through the streets getting shot at a lot and chasing a couple of people around, including ignoring a bunch of army dudes blasting her to try to run down Jason and Rachel — good sense of priorities there. Eventually she retreats back underground having caused little to no collateral damage. I’m left wondering why she came above ground to begin with. It’s not like she went all Cloverfield on the town, smashing buildings and munching on helicopters.

By now you’ll surely have noticed that the entire movie takes place within about a four-block radius of Rachel’s apartment. Several streets and backdrops start to look familiar as Jason runs around corner after corner, seemingly returning to the opposite end of the same set he just departed. The budget must have gone into creating critters, but forgot to make them believable or menacing enough for viewers to care.

Our intrepid hero cooks up a plot on the fly to save the city, and manages to duck out of every explosion and calamity with nary a scratch. It’d be funny if they intended it to be, a la Army of Darkness or Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, but it’s not because they didn’t. The ending shot of a lackadaisical stroll down the street with mom, dad, and kid after the big climax seems to largely ignore the fact that the threat hasn’t nearly been defeated (another queen can be bred out of any of the survivors), but who cares! Roll credits!

The Spiders DVD (and in 3D) released recently, but I can’t speak to the presence or value in any special features as only the movie was provided for review. Still, special features serve to expand on the flick, and I’m not sure I want anything more from Spiders.

Aside from maybe perusing Muldoon’s previous work or running Ms. Campbell’s name through Google image search, you’re better off rewatching Godzilla (1998) for the umpteenth time, as much of a train wreck as that movie can be. Spiders suffers not so much because of its cast; some flicks have done well with lesser talent. However, too many cliches and wasted scenes and silliness played off as serious business doom it to mockery rather than ever being anything more.

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Mark Buckingham

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