Saturday, 7 May 2011

Arachnid

2001
Dir. Jack Sholder

A man is taken to a hospital in Guam with mysterious bite marks on him. This sparks a search for what could have caused such wounds. A small group of doctors and scientist-types are flown to the island he lived on to investigate by tough, straight-talkin’ pilot-chick, Mercer. Needing to make an emergency landing due to technical difficulties, the group become stranded and a brief exploration reveals the island is strangely deserted. Before long the group realise, to their horror, natch, what caused the bites… Strange new breeds of killer arachnids! From outer space! Or something.

Bad CGI aliens! Giant spiders from outer space! Cheesy dialogue! Macho posturing with big guns! Alex Reid! On the surface, Arachnid has everything a great B-movie should have and one could be forgiven for expecting a tongue-in-cheek irreverent romp. What becomes apparent though is that Arachnid actually takes itself quite seriously. Director Sholder never manages to muster much suspense though, nor does he inject much intentional humour into the mix. As a result, Arachnid is merely mildly entertaining. Other films such as Eight-Legged Freaks did this sort of thing much better.


The eclectic group stranded on the island consists of doctor/scientist-types, various ethically diverse secondary characters, a tough, straight-talkin’ pilot chick and an all-American, gung-ho ‘hero.’ None of them are even remotely developed; all are defined by where their names come on the credits. It goes without saying that as Mercer, Alex Reid is one of Arachnid’s saving graces. She plays her usual tough chick role with wry gusto and is as watchable as she usually is. Just a shame she’s not really given much to do. Once our rhubarbing gang get to the island they just sort of wonder around and get picked off one by one by various mutated bugs and giant insects. The arachnid of the title scuttles around menacingly in the background before coming out into the open for a not very thrilling climax. One pretty effective scene comes however, when the last few survivors hide out in a storage shed. Thinking they are safe, they bed down for the night. Ever alert Mercer thinks she hears something though and goes to investigate. Little does she know that above her head, in the darkness, the giant spider has begun its stealthy entrance into the shed. The moment is genuinely arresting, and for a brief moment, things get a little tense.


The film is pretty low budget, and while the animatronics SFX are actually not bad – particularly the titular spider, which gives the film a nice, old-school vibe - a number of really bad CGI effects are just laughable. They, together with cheesy dialogue provide much of the films unintentional humour. Some impressive gross-out effects feature throughout and the film relishes in icky, creepy-crawly moments, like the sight of giant ticks scurrying around under an unfortunate underdeveloped character’s skin. Eww!

The film straddles a sort of beige middle ground, it doesn’t even fall into the ‘so bad its good’ category, and you’d be forgiven for thinking such a film would be inclined to. It’s just kind of unremarkable, though in its favour, it, like other Fantastic Factory productions, has a delightfully quirky charm and eccentricity that ensures there is never a dull moment, and while it isn’t entirely successful, it is still quite an interesting flick. Arachnid is best served with alcohol, and lots of it. Eight-Legged Freaks did the whole ‘giant spider’ thing much better.

The Arrow Video boxset was released on 18th April 2011. It includes Arachnid, Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt, Beyond Re-Animator and Faust: Love of the Damned.

Special features on the Arachnid include:

- “King of the Spiders” – Brian Yuzna remembers Arachnid
- “Creature Comforts: The Monster Mayhem Of Steve Johnson”
- Original trailer
- Collectors’ booklet “Spider Man” and interview with director Jack Sholder by author and critic Calum Waddell
- English Stereo, English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio options.

2 comments:

Shaun [The Celluloid Highway] said...

Have you purchased Arrow's Fantastic Factory box set by any chance James? :-)

James said...

Ha! Now what would give you a crazy notion like that, Shaun. ;)