MARCH 24, 2012
I was a bit disappointed when Camel Spiders shifted its focus from the desert of some unnamed Middle Eastern country to a more typical Syfy movie setting (some Southwestern town long past its glory years). I was kind of hoping it'd be like Assault on Precinct 13 but with spiders, with our heroes having to team up with their Iraqi (?) enemies against the title monsters, but alas. But that's my own fault for thinking that they'd break protocol in a Roger Corman/Jim Wynorski production.
But actually it's not all that bad. Wynorski may not be the guy to come up with any great ideas, but at least he knows his audience for this stuff and is capable of keeping a good pace going. It's not long after we switch from "overseas" to the (very similar looking) US location that the spiders begin their attack, and the action rarely lets up for too long from there. Our heroes make their way around a few locations and the spiders are always on their tail, resulting in repetitive but admirably bountiful action, with lots of carnage and death ensuing each time. And like the also decent Metal Shifters, it's more of a Tremors type approach, with a big group of folks as the focus instead of a couple heroes who drive around looking for the monster, sprinkled with context-free death scenes of random locals.
And Wynorski actually pulls off a pretty good trick concerning a group of obligatory teen characters. They pull up in the desert, ready to go hiking. The nice female of the group (who's got a bit of an Anna Faris in Scary Movie thing going on) gets pissed at the others and takes off, so you think she'll eventually find out what's happening and go back to save them before it's too late or something. But no! The other three get killed moments later. Then they cut back to Faux-ris, who has arrived in town. So now you assume she'll team up with the rest of the cast or something - but then she gets killed as well! Awesome! Wynorski spends just enough time with them and gives them a bit of drama for it to genuinely work as a surprise (plus I just assumed that they didn't have the money to hire more actors to replace them), and then he introduces our REAL group of obligatory teens, who last a lot longer.
The main group is a pretty good mix; a couple of Army folks (including Brian Krause, an underrated actor who deserves better but also elevates this sort of stuff), some locals, a family of three, two asshole businessmen, and sheriff C Thomas Howell, who thankfully doesn't butt heads with Krause over jurisdiction or whatever. In fact they become buddies pretty quickly, and that's another thing I liked about the flick: everyone got along and were fairly pleasant to be around - I actually felt kind of bummed about 2-3 of the deaths. The only exception was the silver haired businessman asshole, because as a silver haired businessman in a movie he HAS to be an asshole, right? Is there any other kind? So he was obnoxiously generic, and I also didn't shine much to the daughter of the family trio, who looked to be in her early teens but whined and talked like a 7 year old ("Mommy, where is Daddy? Is Daddy going to be OK?"). And her mom was just as bad: "Daddy is going to be just fine, Sweetie." In fact I thought her name WAS Sweetie because that's all they ever call her; it's not until late in the film when the idiot goes off by herself that I caught her name (Haley). Then one of the movie's best characters gets killed trying to save her! Stupid kid.
Another highlight: the FX are decent! There's some effort into making them blend with their surroundings (shadows and such), and the spiders look pretty cool as well. They sort of float as they "run" toward folks, but they're much better than average, and they seem to stay the same size throughout instead of scaling up and down depending on what the scene called for. In fact I was kind of expecting that the finale would feature a giant one, but they're all a few feet long at most throughout the movie, and the climax just ends like most Wynorski monster movies do - helicopters swooping in and blowing everything to hell.
Well, the climax of the actual movie, I should say. The movie then takes an odd turn as they cut to some slasher movie in progress, and then showing that the movie was showing in a drive-in, which has been overrun by spiders. Then the movie burns into white as spider silhouettes walk by the screen, like that bit in Gremlins 2. I THINK this is just showing that the spiders haven't all been killed but have just spread to other areas, but it would have been a lot more fun to just zoom out of the spider movie and have the scene play out "in the real world", without this random slasher thing in the mix making it confusing.
And it's a hundred times better than Eight Legged Freaks, and a mere 17 times better is all I was hoping for anyway. The disc has no extras at all besides some trailers, though I have an idea for a future Wynorski release: a list of all his pseudonyms, with Wynorski explaining the origin of each one. Somewhere there's a guy with the actual name Jay Andrews wondering why his pals are constantly making jokes about "his" silly monster movies and what he ever did to Wynorski to deserve the ridicule. OR, maybe he totally plays it up in bars, pointing at his name on the bar TV (in this scenario, the bar is showing Syfy movies instead of a basketball game), telling the ladies that he's the director. And unlike Wynorski he can whip out his license and "prove" it! Score!
What say you?