Friday, February 8, 2013

Tibor Takács' SPIDERS will creep you out -- especially if you're prone to arachnophobia

Remember Tarantula? (You've got to be pretty elderly -- or given to watching monster movies from the 1950s -- to manage it.) If so, you'll probably be willing to stand in line to get a gander at the new scare flick SPIDERS. If you do, I think you'll agree that it's those creepy, crawly arachnids who deserve most of the cheers -- along with the special effects people who created them. The movie itself is a competent enough scary-monster flick, which will entertain that portion of the masses who enjoy this sort of thing, but it may also hold appeal for many movie buffs for other interesting reasons.

Directed and co-written by Hungarian filmmaker Tibor Takács (at right), the movie, from what I can gather, was filmed in Bulgaria (or some other nearby eastern European country, but it's Bulgaria most often mentioned in the end credits), in which were constructed a few street-scape sets meant to make us imagine we're in New York City. Now, NYC is a place that even NYC itself does not always make real enough, so these charming and actually pretty good attempts at capturing the Big Apple are to be first commended and then chuckled at. (Sorry, but this New York is just not crowded enough with people, and admist the usual big, red stand-up boxes that hold The Village Voice is an occasional big blue box, too!)

The story/screenplay itself is pretty good -- at least for maybe two-thirds of the way along. We know the world is in for trouble pre- and during the opening credits, as a space shuttle careens toward earth carrying a dead astronaut and a bunch of living spiders.

From the outset, the arachnids hole up in a particular station of the city's subway system, where they begin biting and killing (and laying eggs in) people -- and rats. And then the spiders start growing. Yikes! (That's one of 'em, facing off against a mechanical dog, above.) In the old days, these movies would simply have a scientist (or two) and his pretty, young assistant or daughter discover a way to rout the monsters (who were almost always a product of nuclear testing in the dessert or ocean).

These days, however, as conspiracy theories mount and we can trust almost anyone except our own government, movies continue to reflect this change, and so Spiders does its bit for paranoia, while adhering to the age-old principle of the mad scientist (nicely limned by Pete Lee-Wilson) who's got a jones for his eight-leggers at the expense of us poor human beings.

That scientist may be be a bit stupid (in the way that movie mad-scientists so often are), but he is a hell of a lot more humane that the U.S. military man in charge of things (a strong and nasty William Hope, above), who is ready to sacrifice everyone in any way connected with the project to ensure maximum secrecy.

That would include our heroic family -- dad (Patrick Muldoonabove, right), who works for the NYC Transit Authority, his estranged wife (Christa Campbell, above, left), who works for the NYC Health Department, and their lovely, nearing teen age daughter (Sydney Sweeney, shown below, a bit surprised by the size of what she sees). All are acceptable performers but are never given the opportunity by script or direction to be much more. (But, come on, do we go to these movie for the acting?!)

The usual elements are here, initially stirred a little differently, until somewhere around the halfway point -- at which time, the movie, hmmmm... degenerates is a tad too strong a term (maybe wilts is better) into the usual, conceive/write/direct-by-numbers routine.

Still there are those delightful title characters, creepily created and evidently a lot smarter than most of the human beings nearby.

Spiders, via Millennium Films, opens its very limited theatrical run today, Friday, February 8 -- mostly, according to the press info I received, in outlying areas of the Los Angeles region -- but not, I think in 3D, the way it was initially advertised and probably filmed (you'll note many of these comin'-at-you effects as the movie bounces along). Instead, it is being shown in a 2D version that -- on the screener I received, at least -- looks pretty damn good. All told, Spiders provides decent fun, thrills and special effects. And that limited run should not deter fans around the rest of the country, as the movie also premieres today on Premium VOD. Then, mid-March, it will become available on DVD and VOD.

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