FEBRUARY 10, 2013
I'm just as confused as you are as to why Spiders 3D is playing theatrically right now, but I fully endorse it. We need more monster movies in theaters, even if they're long delayed (it was shot in late 2010) and just slightly better than Syfy channel-level movies like this. I was actually pleased to see about a dozen other people in the theater for a Sunday afternoon show of a non-advertised movie in a dinky theater tucked away in a shopping mall. There's hope yet!
Anyway, the movie is fine for this sort of thing. Director Tibor Takács seems to be influenced more by 1950s monster movies (as he was for his enjoyable Mansquito), where the action is mainly confined to the final half hour or so and our heroes are a handsome man and a beautiful girl trying to warn everyone off before it's too late. Also: government paranoia! This is actually the movie's biggest weakness - way too much is spent on this bland nonsense, and Takács doesn't have the budget or production value to really pull it off right. There's an interesting idea here, that the evil scientists and military folk are claiming that there's a virus in order to quarantine the humans away from where they are purposely breeding the things (for a weapon, of course - why is it always a weapon? How about armor?), but it never really comes together. Hero Patrick Muldoon keeps telling the soldiers to take off their gas masks since they're not needed, and that's about it. It's a very empty New York even before the quarantine begins, and that they apparently only had the dough to redress two (very similar) looking blocks of Bulgaria to resemble Manhattan doesn't help.
To be fair, I've certainly seen worse attempts at faking the Big Apple, but I'd take one less spider action scene if it meant they could buy some more stock footage or rent another block out so the movie didn't feel so cramped - if you're watching this movie on a new plasma screen, there's a chance that the crane shot of the subway entrance where the first spider bite occurs (and thus becomes HQ for the science types) will burn into your screen forever, and you'll get sick of the street outside of (heroine and Muldoon's ex) Christa Campbell's apartment before long as well. There are a few other locations and one brief sorta-chase scene a few blocks away (where the Bulgarian redressing isn't as successful), but it's these two areas you'll see over and over again - even when the spiders bust out they don't seem to want to go very far. Not that this can't work for a monster movie - Attack the Block worked perfectly with even more confinement, but it was also telling a more character driven story, whereas the only people here of note are Campbell and Muldoon, reducing everyone else to background players.
The only sort of exception is William Hope, aka the idiot Gorman from Aliens. He's the head military asshole and likely stunt cast (creatures being used to develop weapons should ring a bell), but barely gets to do much and only shares a single scene with our heroes. This stuff isn't nearly as interesting as the writers seem to hope, but perhaps the budget kept it from being brought to fruition; at one point we see a guy go around and execute a bunch of folks we've never seen before as part of his coverup, and it has zero bearing on anything - I suspect this was leftover from a draft where no one was considering that this would be a low budget production where a lot of the money was going toward the spider FX and 3D cameras. The movie starts off pretty great - the space shuttle debris with the spider crashes to Earth in the first few minutes, and a guy is killed a few minutes after that (AND we've already met both heroes), but then it dives into this stuff for a solid 40 minutes before the spiders start wreaking any havoc, which puts a damper on things since it feels so cheap and half-baked.
Luckily, once the spiders DO get loose, it gets considerably more fun. They're all CGI, but it's mostly impressive for this sort of thing, and certainly superior to what Syfy offers (hell it's even better than the Mummy sequels at times), and the common scaling issue (where they change size from shot to shot) isn't really present. Besides, even if it WAS, part of the plot is that they're growing six inches an hour or something like that, so it wouldn't be too much of a problem if one got bigger all of a sudden, and Takács wisely keeps some of the smaller ones around until the very end, so even though there's a giant one thundering down a city block, there's still a danger from the golf cart or human sized ones that come through windows and the like. Oddly, one of my other issues with the movie is that they didn't do enough with the "slightly larger than normal" sized spiders - the best bit in the entire movie takes place in the corner of the frame, where a rat that no one sees is attacked/killed by one such spider. Since most humans are probably at least a little afraid of spiders, they probably could have milked the "they could be in your pant leg, in your coffee cup" type such for a while at the top of the film, especially since these FX probably aren't as expensive as say, a 40 foot one crawling down a street as a bunch of soldiers fire bazookas and assault rifles at it. And also - to me anyway, these little guys are way scarier than the giant ones, because I know I can just run the hell away from the big guy, but who knows what corners and seat cushions could be hiding.
One thing bugged me though - this appears to have been edited for a PG-13, and not very gracefully. I didn't mind the lack of gore much (Tremors was PG-13, Gremlins was PG and CAUSED the PG-13, so there's a precedent for such fare), but when they noticeably cut away from a death it's kind of annoying, because it clearly wasn't designed that way. Also, at one point a guy gets muted! If they want to dub in a "Friggin" or "Mr Falcon", fine, but the audio just completely drops out as he says "I know this is _______ up!" (the word being "fucked"), which is a bit insulting to a paying audience of adults. Hopefully the DVD (which is coming in a few weeks - this is basically a promotion for where they will REALLY make their money) will either restore this stuff or at least be cleaned up to be less noticeable. And hopefully it retains the 3D; while not the best I've ever seen, it was quite well done, particularly the cool opening sequence in the space shuttle (you can almost consider this a sequel to Apollo 18, by the way) and the bits where characters were trapped in walls of webbing. It was my first 3D experience since Chainsaw (and my first PAID 3D film since Frankenweenie), and I walked away remembering why I enjoyed it in the first place (that the movie was short and not a conversion helped, as it didn't lend itself to me getting a headache), and fit the 50s thinking perfectly. In short, I wasn't blown away by any of it, but most of the fun I had was intentional (the acting "prowess" and dialogue for the couple's daughter provided most of the UNintentional fun), and it was far from the worst thing I had seen in the past week.
What say you?