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Spiders (2000)
Director: Gary Jones

reviews by Christopher Geary

Perhaps best viewed as a commendable low-budget precursor to the successful Eight-Legged Freaks, this is the first of two kitsch big bug movies in the B-movie mould that provide a welcome relief from the slickly packaged but bland studio product currently swamping the genre.
   Marci (Lana Parrilla) is a college student and hack reporter who annoys her editor with farcical UFOlogy stories. After interviewing a couple of weirdoes who claim to be aliens stranded on Earth, she follows a flimsy excuse for evidence of a conspiracy that leads her to investigate a supposedly secret military base out in the desert. There, she and her two friends witness the crash of a space shuttle, and find that most of its crew are already dead, their bodies eviscerated. Only one astronaut survives, and he's dying from the bite of an oversized spider. Later, when Marci's gang sneak into the underground biological weapons lab run by an incompetent Majestic-12 agent, they discover the men in black's Project MIL ('Mother-in-Law') has created fast-breeding giant spiders using alien DNA.
   Apart from the overacting of the human villain Agent Gray (Mark Phelan), the sheer amateurishness of supporting players, and some clunky moments in the story - as when the computer whiz kid hacks into a military database to download plot details - Spiders is an enjoyable exploitation flick that consciously yet gleefully steals bits from The Faculty (1998), Aliens (1986), and, of course, The X-Files. There is an infected spaceman scene that recalls British classic, The Quatermass Xperiment (US title: The Creeping Unknown, 1955), while one manmade creature grows to monstrous proportions like the monster of Jack Arnold's effective Tarantula (1955). If the prolonged scenes where a handful of soldiers stalk giant spiders through the cobwebbed corridors of a subterranean military complex attempts to replay the bug hunt of Aliens, then young heroine Marci is clearly inspired by example of Ripley, and the somewhat plump Parrilla gets into bug-bashing action with gusto in the climax, happily blasting one car-wrecking arachnid to slime with a rocket launcher.
   The all-important effects are provided by companies such as KNB, and include digital mattes, mechanical props and special make-ups. These are variable in quality, but their very inconsistency simply adds to the overall charm of this kind of movie, and notable set pieces like the car-crushing urban rampage are enjoyably crazy.

Spiders 2 (2001)
Director: Sam Firstenberg

review by Christopher Geary

This is a sequel in name only with no narrative continuity whatsoever, the only link being that both films were adapted from stories by co-producer Boaz Davidson. This one mixes Dead Calm (1989) and Virus (1999), and like its predecessor plays well enough as admirably re-invented schlock without even bothering to strive for any higher purpose.
   Happily married Jason and Alex (Greg Cromer and Stephanie Niznik) are out sailing when they find a floating shipwreck, which we saw attacked and left to burn by kidnapping pirates in the film's prologue. Caught in a storm, the couple are washed overboard from their yacht, and rescued by the crew of a mysterious cargo ship where bearded and brusque Dr Gabec (Richard Moll) treats Jason's injuries with an injection that eventually makes him worse, not better. Of course, Gabec is a traditionally amoral mad scientist, conducting DNA experiments using people abducted from passing boats as living hosts to incubate the eggs of giant spiders kept in the ship's hold.
   Despite hammy acting by the villainous Moll, there are decent performances from Niznik as the tough heroine, and Daniel Quinn as the cargo ship's charming yet corrupt Captain Bigelow, and Spiders 2 (aka - Spiders II: Breeding Ground) has a far more serious tone, overall, than the first movie. This is certainly an advantage in the scenes of dramatic horror when hatchling spiders burst messily from comatose human victims in Gabec's secret lab. It's only in the later action sequences that director Sam Firstenberg loses control of the thriller atmosphere and a sense of shameless absurdity takes over. After heroine Alex rescues drugged hubby Jason, and defends herself against the big bugs with an improvised propane gas flamethrower and a fire extinguisher, Spiders 2 succumbs to narrative clumsiness, and replaces convincing details with dodgy visual effects and laughable sound effects (the largest hairy monsters shriek like trumpeting elephants as they scramble about below decks!), making the film's climax ridiculously comical and stupid.

Related item:
tZ  A Top 10 Big Bug Movies by Mike McCarty

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