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June 2011

Arachnid

cast: Chris Potter, Alex Reid, Josť Sancho, Neus Asensi, and Ravil Isyanov

director: Jack Sholder

91 minutes (15) 2001
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Arrow DVD Region 2
[released 6 June]

RATING: 3/10
review by Mark West

Arachnid

This film doesn't start well. After panning across the ocean, a shoddy CGI waterspout appears, linked to what looks like a Klingon cruiser that's partly invisible. A stealth fighter, on exercise, spots this - though it's not on his radar - and chases said CGI away from land. Something happens and the pilot is forced to eject where, bizarrely, he lands in the middle of a jungle. He spots an alien, watches it get attacked by a giant spider, then gets attacked himself...

At some point later (the film doesn't make it clear), a man is admitted to a hospital in Guam (how do I know this? There's a sign above the nurses station that reads 'Guam Hospital') with mysterious bites. Dr Leon (Josť Sancho) decides to find out what caused them so he enlists Valentine (Chris Potter) and his crew - Bear (Rocqueford Allen) and Reyes (Luis Lorenzo Crespo) - ex-marines who just happen to be hanging around, to help him out. A local pilot, Mercer (Alex Reid), is drafted in too though she has different reasons for wanting to go to the island. What island, you ask? The island that the attacked man was from, silly... How did he get away from the island? Oh, erm, I don't know...

Mercer, squabbling with Dr Leon and his nurse Susanna (Neus Asensi), loses control of the plane and crash lands it on the beach of the island. Entomologist Henry Capri (Ravil Isyanov, putting on a terrible English accent) discovers a giant spider leg and the group makes camp.

Let's not beat about the bush here, Arachnid is a terrible film. Clearly made for the most rock-bottom of budgets, it suffers badly from poor CGI (the elements at the beginning must have been rendered through a ZX Spectrum), poor prosthetic work (no attempt is made to blend the clearly rubber parts with the actors skin, or even match the tones) and some truly slipshod direction. This is highlighted most clearly in the plane crash. At no point do we see the engines fail, though the characters keep telling us they have and, when we get shots of the plane coming into the beach the engines are clearly running. As for the point of impact, does director Jack Sholder involve miniatures? Nope, he points the camera at the beach and jiggles it around.

The acting is unfortunate, with Alex Reid perhaps coming out of it the best (she thankfully went on to make The Descent), though her character is very much one-note, as dictated by the script. Chris Potter tries his best, but never looks comfortable while Josť Sancho, and Neus Asensi (present, I assume, to satisfy quotas since the film is a Spanish-based production) clearly don't have English as their first language, meaning that their dialogue (despite a credited dialogue coach - shame on you, Ramon Ibarra, for not helping out your countrymen) is garbled, unclear and not helped by being poorly recorded. The special effects from Steve Johnson's XFX (he made the spider) are good, but just highlight how bad everything else is.

What is unbelievable is that the first minute of the opening credits is made up of logos from various Spanish bodies - film companies, government subsidies and grants - yet it appears not one of them either read the script or watched dailies. Clearly made on the cheap, if the filmmakers don't have respect for the audience and deliver decent entertainment, why should the audience view the film?

My screener copy has three extras, one of which is the theatrical trailer. King Of Spiders is a 20-minute chat with Brian Yuzna (whose Fantastic Factory made the film), wherein he seemed to spend more time chatting about Stuart Gordon than anything else. The final extra is Creature Comforts, a 26-minute interview with Steve Johnson, and it makes for interesting, if quite sad, viewing. Johnson was a star of make-up effects in the 1980s and 1990s, as he states several times, with an impressive resume to match. But, as he talks about the advent of digital effects (and I share his hatred for them), and the pinch on money for animatronics, the bitterness seeps through the screen. Worse, after apparently getting knocked back by Spike Jonze (for Where The Wild Things Are), and Sam Raimi (for Spider-Man 3), he left the business. I don't know what he's doing now - the interview ends, before he says - but I sincerely hope that he's remembered for his 1980s' highlights and not this piece of schlock.



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