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Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/12/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/15/2013
Ah, the animals run amok horror movie. It's been around for decades, as the 1950s, saw some creatures going nuts, but the sub-genre was re-defined in 1975 with Jaws. Since that time, filmmakers have been trying (at times) to find a new way to present this idea. If an average out-of-control animal isn't working, one tactic which dates back to those early movies is to make it giant-sized, because the only thing worse than a rampaging beast is one which is the size of a house. That's what the makers of Spiders did, as they took the normally creepy-crawly critters and blew them up. Did that help to make them scarier?
As Spiders opens, we see a meteor shower hit a satellite which is orbiting the Earth. One of the meteors then crashes into New York City, falling into a subway tunnel. New York Transit employee Jason (Patrick Muldoon) goes to investigate and soon learns that one of his co-workers has died in a freak accident. While it looks like the employee hit the "third rail", his body shows signs of a bite, and an autopsy reveals egg-like deposits in his chest. Little does anyone know that spiders were on that meteorite and they are now loose in the subway system. The military arrives and Dr. Darnoff (Pete Lee-Wilson) sets up a lab to study the spiders, as he was involved in the original experiment which created them. As Colonel Jenkins (William Hope) institutes martial law and invents a story about a virus being loose in the area, Jason and his ex-wife, Rachel (Christa Campbell), race to rescue their daughter, Emily (Sydney Sweeney). As the day goes on, the spiders begin to venture out into the streets, and they are beginning to get bigger.
Spiders comes from Director Tibor Takacs, who showed a lot of promise back in 1987 with his quirky suburban horror film The Gate. However, his career didn't exactly take off after that (he did direct the 1996 pilot movie for TV's Sabrina, the Teenage Witch) and recently, he's been helming SyFy Channel creature-features like Ice Spiders and Mansquito. So, Spiders is definitely in his wheel-house. The problem is, after directing at least four of these movies, he (and the writers with which he works) have no idea what they are doing.
The basic problems with Spiders are two-fold. First of all, the story is too vague. I don't go into one of these films expecting an AP English level tale, but at least have a coherent story, especially when three writers are credited. The film opens with a shot inside of the satellite and we can see (relatively) small spiders and dead astronauts. We also later learn that Dr. Darnoff had been a part of that project, and we are given a very vague explanation as to why the spiders were being bred and studied. But, we never learn why it was taking place in space or if anyone knew that the satellite had been overtaken by the spiders. We are told that the thing which crashes to Earth is a meteor. So, where did the spiders come from? Wouldn't it have made more sense to have a large piece of the satellite survive re-entry and come crashing down? Did the spiders hitch a ride on a rack which came crashing through the satellite? And, unless I missed it (I did watch this movie in chunks), they don't do a very good job of explaining why the spiders grow. Dr. Darnoff does say that they are growing faster in Earth's gravity, but that's counter-intuitive.
The movie also suffers from not having an overall purpose. Like so many filmmakers before them, Takacs and company have no idea what to do once the spiders get huge. The spiders begin to grow and people run from them. Then, the final spider is enormous and a lot of people run from it. And that's about it for the second half of the movie. Sure, these spiders kill some characters, but it's not the least bit interesting. There also an issue with the spider's vulnerability. One can be killed with a forklift, but the rest are bulletproof and no one ever explains why that is. To make matters worse, Spiders is eerily similar to a 2000 film which was also entitled Spiders. I haven't seen that movie, but the plot synopsis reads in part, "A DNA experiment on a rare breed of spider is taking place on a NASA space shuttle, when a freak meteor shower engulfs the shuttle, causing everything to go horribly wrong." Hmmm....
I typically try to avoid these modern creature-features, as I've seen enough to know that the CGI monsters are usually awful. (I'll never forget the spiders inCamel Spiders, which were often hovering above the ground...) However, the CG in Spiders is pretty good. The spiders show detail and have accurate shadows. In the scenes where they chase people, it doesn't look overly plastic and the scale remains relative. Someone did make an odd choice with the creature design, as the final spider has what looks like a human face and it also has a scythe-like claw. But, these above par effects are wasted on a movie which has no story to back it up and characters about which we don't care. The movie proves that spiders are inherently creepy, but a boring story is really scary.
Spiders does a great job of using the same city street set over and over again on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Millennium Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The one notable issue with this transfer is that it's slightly dark at times, but it's never so dark that we can't see the action. The colors look good, and the picture shows a fairly nice level of detail. The depth is also good. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, most notably in the subway scenes, where the movie wants to create the effect that the spiders are everywhere. These same scenes create fairly good surround sound, as do the attack scenes during the finale. The appearance of the big spider and the ensuing battle also creates good subwoofer action. The since Blu-ray Disc also contains a 3D version of the film which has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and contains an MVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25/15 Mbps. Again, the image is sharp and clear. The image shows off a nice amount of depth, as the actors and objects in the foreground are nicely separated from the background. I felt that there was a nice use of the space between these objects. However, I didn't note any "coming at you" effects, where objects appear to leave the screen. The overall effect is like watching a moving "View Master".
The Spiders Blu-ray Disc contains only three extra features. "Web of Terror: and the actors. There is talk of the 3D effects and acting against nothing. Of course, we get plenty of clips from the movie, but they are incredibly dark. There are a handful of on-set moments. "Cast & Crew Interviews" (13 minutes) offers chats with Director Tibor Takacs, Patrick Muldoon, Christa Campbell, William Hope, and Sydney Sweeney, all of whom talk about their work on the film. "Behind the Scenes" (9 minutes) is simply "fly on the wall" on-set footage which shows some of the key scenes being shot.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.