JUNE 27, 2012
SOURCE: CABLE (SYFY)
There are two types of Syfy movies. One kind is like Sharktopus, which focuses primarily on random victims who are introduced and then killed while the star circles the narrative looking for the beast before it’s “too late”. Those tend to suck. Far more successful are the ones like Arachnoquake, which introduce a group of characters, have them meet their nemesis early on, and then give us what is basically a 90 minute chase scene as they make their way across town or whatever, with the monster(s) killing someone we actually know every now and then.
Now, Arachnoquake is hardly the best example of this type, but at least it gives you a reason to pay attention, unlike the other type where you just need to see the trailer for all the money shots and then tune in for the last 20 minutes to see what sort of “climax” they’ve assembled this time. No, here if you leave for a while, an actual character might die and then you’d be like “Where’d that one guy go?”, something that isn’t a concern in those others. It’s a pretty forgettable movie, though the not sluggish pace and a tongue in cheek tone (the spiders can swim and shoot fire, nonsense that even the characters seem impressed by) warrants its existence as something for Syfy to put on in between commercials. And I had to appreciate the stones to call a movie Arachnoquake and yet start it after the earthquake occurred.
It even has a few likable characters, which is always nice. There’s a grumpy old dude who unfortunately goes pretty quickly, but I liked him because he was the only one who DID anything when first confronted with a spider early on. It’s one of those movies where the things keep growing, so at first they’re just a few times bigger than normal spiders and thus it doesn’t seem like a single one would pose much of a threat to a group of humans. Yet they all panic and run away from it, except for the old guy, who whacks it with his cane. Go Gramps!
I also liked the main character’s dad, played by familiar character actor Ethan Phillips. He’s a sort of salt of the earth, blue collar guy, and thus not willing to put up with the other folks’ bullshit, but what made me feel for the poor bastard was the script’s insistence on putting him through more hell than everyone else – he’s attacked by the spiders like three times before he’s finally killed. By the time of his demise he’s been bitten, burned, stung… he’s like Ash from Evil Dead, but it’s not really funny. It's actually just good that he's finally been put out of his misery.
And those guys put some effort into their roles, unlike top-billed Tracey Gold and Edward Furlong, who are inexplicably supposed to be a couple with teenaged children. I have to assume that Furlong’s role was written for an older actor and someone in casting fucked up along the way, because not only is he only 35 in real life, he actually looks a bit younger and thus doesn’t really look much older than the kid playing his son; another film would cast them as brothers. He’s also supposed to be a high school coach, which makes me suspect what kind of athletic program that school has if this bloated, seemingly permanently stoned dude is entrusted with whipping some would-be sports stars into shape. It’d be like having a Kardashian as the health counselor.
Gold fares no better; she looks the right age but she often refuses to actually act in many of her early scenes, just sitting there with a blank look on her face even when there are spiders nearby. Later she suffers an asthma attack and thus has a reason to DO something, but it’s a pretty shit subplot even by the standards of these things. I also rolled my eyes when the spider kidnapped her, dragging her off to a cave with its webbing. Everyone else in the movie was instantly killed when confronted by a spider, so why did they change their MO for her? Did the spider know she had higher billing than the other victims?
The FX aren’t too bad; there are a couple of practical spiders for closeups, and the smaller ones look fine. However, the big spider for the climax is pretty bad, as is the compositing when one of the heroes is supposedly battling it. I have to wonder if they purposely put the better FX up front hoping to hook people in, assuming that they’ll ride the rest out once everything starts to look like a PS1 game, but it’s a shame that nearly every one of these things drops the ball for their finales. Especially for a movie this average – it’s a C all the way through, but a good ending could have brought it up to a B- or so, rather than sink it another notch. But in between all of those bad FX is a guy running around in a scuba suit while firing a shotgun, so there’s something.
I think we need to give New Orleans a rest for filming locations, however. I know it helps the city financially and such, but it’s getting tiresome, and they’re hardly the only state in the country that could use help. Sure, it’s better than a Vancouver or Toronto location trying to pass itself off for one of our great States, but they gotta mix it up! It’s a sad thing to realize that I’m getting tired of looking at one of the more visually interesting cities in the country. I can’t remember the last time I saw a horror movie shot in New England or in the Northwest. Do it for your country!
What say you?