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Camel Spiders (2012)

Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/27/2012

All Ratings out of

Movie: 1/2



Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/19/2012

When the pioneers of computer generated special effects were laying the groundwork back in the 1980s with movies like The Last Starfighter and Tron (after years of very basic cg animation (especially wireframe work) having been offered in film), what did they think the future would hold? Could they imagine that CG would revolutionize traditional animated movies? Did they know that completely CG characters would become commonplace in movies? I'm sure that they are simply amazed by what has taken place. But, I have to imagine that they are also somewhat embarrassed by how the monster movie has been changed, if not corrupted by CG. The good, old-fashioned latex creature has given way to digital baddies which now dominate low-budget movies. Camel Spiders is the perfect example of this bizarre trend.

Camel Spiders opens in Iraq (?) where we see Captain Sturges' (Brian Krause) squad pinned down by enemy fire. Suddenly, the ambush stops, but not before Schwalb (Frankie Cullen) is shot and killed. Investigating the situation, Sturges and his group can't figure out what happened to the enemy. While Schwalb's body is being loaded into a box to be shipped back to America, several camel spiders, large desert arachnids, climb into the casket. The scene then shifts to the U.S., where Sturges and Sergeant Shelly Underwood (Rocky DeMarco) are driving through the southwest to deliver Schwalb's body to his family. Their truck is hit and the coffin falls out, causing the camel spiders to scatter. As the truck is damage, Sturges and Underwood go into town to wait for help. In the meantime, the camel spiders multiply and begin to attack the locals. As the creatures take over the town, Sturges and a group of survivors, with the aid of Sheriff Beaumont (C. Thomas Howell), are forced to seek refuge in an old gypsum plant.

Camel Spiders is one of the latest offerings from legendary producer Roger Corman. One of Corman's trademarks is to make a low-budget (and often more exploitation leaning) version of a popular hit movie. With Camel Spiders, writers Jim Wynorski (who also directed under the pseudonym Jay Andrews) and J. Brad Wilke have made the odd choice to combine the stories from two older movies with an urban legend. In 2003, e-mails began to circulate showing large camel spiders which U.S. troops were supposedly encountering in Iraq. These creatures were said to be very large, fast, and deadly. In reality, the animal is a solifugae, which is related to the spider, but not technically a spider. The animal isn't venomous, doesn't grow to monstrous proportion, isn't especially fast, and doesn't spin webs. The movie shows the monsters doing all of these things and some of the creatures are the size of small dogs. As if this bending of the truth (or conforming to the urban legend, take your pick) isn't bad enough, Wynorski and Wilke have essentially co-opted the stories from two other spider movies. The idea of a foreign spider getting to the United States in a coffin is taken directly from Arachnophobia (and Camel Spiders does very little to divert from that movies ideas). The rest of the movie plays like a loose remake of Kingdom of the Spiders, but without William Shatner.

So, Camel Spiders is unoriginal and inaccurate, it's still a fun creature feature, right? Wrong. This is one of those movies which barely tries, so there's little reason for the audience to get involved. I've never been to the Middle East, but I'm fairly certain that the opening battle sequence wasn't shot there and the movie doesn't really try to cover up this fact. The characters are very underwritten and we only get stereotypes here (soldier, travelling couple with kid, evil real estate investor, etc.). Everyone here is interchangeable and we know that they are only fodder for the camel spiders. As for the camel spiders themselves, the movie never makes any attempt to explain what is happening with them. Only a handful come out of the coffin, but within hours, there are literally hundreds of them taking over the town. Where did they come from? We never see any sort of spawning situation, so I have to assume that they called some friends to join the party. (And if they could get cell phone coverage in that area, more power to them.)
Also, the camel spiders seem to keep getting larger as the movie progresses. Did they cut out the part where they wandered by the nuclear plant? To the movie's credit, it isn't shy about showing the camel spiders and they arrive less then 3 minutes into the film, but they then become so ubiquitous that their appearances have little impact. The CG effects are mediocre at best and the creatures "attacking" the actors don't always line up perfectly, so the animal is on the person, but the point of impact and the reactoin aren't exactly in synch.

Typically, technological advances are a good thing, but not in the case of overused CG effects. Sure, the use of digital camel spiders eliminates the need for a spider wrangler, but nothing beats the unnerving feeling of watching a real spider crawl across someone. Of course, the use of real animals would have punched a whole in the far-fetched story of Camel Spiders. A movie set around this urban legend is actually a good idea, but the execution here is all wrong.

Camel Spiders tells us that helicopter pilots don't need flight suits on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing only a trace amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image has a nice crispness to it and the level of detail is good. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects during the battle scene and the attack scenes are well-done, showing nice clarity. The stereo effects provide detailed sounds from the right and left channels. A few explosions bring us notable subwoofer effects.

The Camel Spiders Blu-ray Disc contains no extra features.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long