Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kingdom of the Spiders

Once more the alphabetical nature of this list leads to me reviewing two fairly similar films back to back. This shouldn’t really be that much of a problem for all of you, though, as who could ever get tired of watching movies where nature runs amuck and kills everyone? Certainly not I, and certainly not you, if you’re the kind of person that I would ever want to meet.
This film starts off already better than Kaw, as instead of starring cult actor Sean Patrick Flanery as a police chief, we instead get cult actor William Shatner as a cowboy. He shortly finds himself embroiled in a mystery wherein a neighbor’s livestock seem to be getting killed by a mysterious plague. After sending off some blood for analysis, a scientist (Tiffany Bolling) travels down to explain to him that the cattle are being killed by massive injections of spider venom. They quickly discover that something has occurred to make all the tarantulas in the area start banding together and attack animals much larger than normal, up to and including humans, but before they can formulate a solid strategy for destroying them the spiders swarm the town en masse, leading to some delightful pandemonium throughout the town and forcing our heroes to try to barricade themselves inside of a lodge for safety.

Being a film from the 70s, there wasn’t even the thought of using CG for the spiders, so they actually purchased 50,000 tarantulas to crawl all over everything like the creepy little monsters they are. This was kind of a double-edged sword. It makes the animal attacks somewhat more real-looking, as you get to see very obviously real spiders crawling all over people (though we unfortunately are denied any money-shot close-ups of any actual bites). On the other hand, due to delightful 70s indifference quite a few of the spiders were killed during production, leading to several animal rights groups being quite upset with the film and with director John Cardos. I can sort of understand the outrage, but come on. They’re spiders. It’s not like they were killing something cute and non-terrifying. I can only hope that when they were done filming they just let all the tarantulas loose on site.

The attack scenes are completely awesome, by the way, even without any kind of animatronics to better control how they look. We get a woman so freaked out by them swarming her that when one jumps on her hand, she straight up shoots it, blowing off one of her fingers. We get a little girl just trying to play on her swing outside as an army of tarantulas runs around underneath her (and when the mother tries to rescue her, they kill the mom! Nice!). They manage the surprisingly intelligent maneuver of killing off the dispatch agent so that calls for help can’t reach any other police agencies (much like in Kaw, actually), and unlike Kaw, we do get a shot of the main street of the town as everyone is running around being killed or laying there already killed by the unstoppable arachnid army.

It’s a pretty visibly 70s production, as we get everything from goofy, inappropriate music (apparently taken from old Twilight Zone episodes) to our scientist heroine speculating (completely without any evidence, of course) that the attacks are being caused by the damage done by humanity to the environment (such as, say, the damage done by buying up tens of thousands of spiders for a movie and then killing a whole bunch of them) to its nice downer ending. It’s just about everything that you should want in a movie like this, so I hope you check it out. And no more Shatner movies here for a while, I promise.

Rating: ***

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