Studio: Millennium Films
Director: Tibor Takacs
Writer: Joseph Farrugia, Tibor Takacs, Boaz Davidson, Dustin Warburton
Producer: Boaz Davidson, Israel Ringel
Stars: Patrick Muldoon, Christa Campbell, William Hope, Sydney Sweeney
Giant mutated spiders threaten to destroy everything after Russian space debris crashes into the New York City subway tunnels.
A hole in the ground is not the only problem caused by Russian space junk crashing into the New York City subway system. It brings along a mutated species of dangerous arachnids that grows very large and very quickly. The key to combating the giant creatures rests with the man responsible for the tunnels that they now call home. Not since the last time Pelham 123 was taken has a train dispatcher had his hands this full.
In deciding if I wanted to see this movie, I first looked at the summary provided on IMDB: “After a Soviet space station crashes into a New York City subway tunnel, a species of venomous spiders is discovered, and soon they mutate to gigantic proportions and wreak havoc on the city.” I made it only as far as “venomous spiders” when my mouth curled into a smile and the decision was cemented. Russian space satellites. New York City subway tunnels. Giant mutant spiders. Three perfect ingredients for gonzo entertainment.
I know as well as anyone that giant monster movies, particularly those with insane premises (are there any other kind?), deserve a generous amount of latitude when it comes to forgiving their shortcomings. As fun as those three ingredients sound, they also signify a B-grade distraction that is unlikely to be in contention for an award of any kind. Fair enough. All “Spiders 3D” needs to accomplish is to provide some mild thrills with an occasional laugh or headshake. “Spiders 3D” fits that description in parts, but when the movie drifts away from its main thread to weave webs around peripheral characters and head-scratching subplots, the complete package lays an insect egg of its own.
For a movie titled “Spiders 3D,” there is one conspicuous issue. There are no real spiders found anywhere. Every eight-legged crawler is computer generated. Not for one moment will it ever seem like any of the actors are in the same physical space as these creatures, but that is something that requires looking the other way in this type of movie. The mutant beasties still have some effective appeal in the scenes where lighting and post-production effects do not shine a light on their artificial origins.
There are real rats, though. An early scene where a spider murders a subway rodent in the foreground showed promise for what would be in store. Unfortunately, the movie electrocutes itself on the third rail by intentionally introducing plot holes and story threads that either go nowhere or make little sense.
Leading the charge against the giant monsters is actor Patrick Muldoon, who previously enlisted with the “Starship Troopers,” and lead actress Christa Campbell, a veteran of “Mansquito.” They have the pedigrees for knowing how to toe the line in these roles and keep the needle balanced delicately, tipping neither into camp nor into ultra-seriousness. Had the story remained focused on their plight, the second act may not have descended into an infested tunnel of its own. Instead, the runtime is stretched with a Russian hitman, a poisoned train dispatcher, and some explanatory rabble about spider webbing forever changing the face of military technology.
While mother and father are off dodging military assassins and fighting mutant spiders, their daughter is trapped in her quarantined apartment with her nanny. At some point, the movie remembers they are stuck in there and stops for a visit. The girls devise an escape plan that sees them removing box stacks by a closet window to access the fire escape. Unfortunately, it happens to be New York’s most useless fire escape because it has no stairs and no ladder. So they return to the apartment. Thrilling. This is but one scene of questionable value.
“Spiders” is not for the detail oriented, either. Paying attention too closely to the streets and shop signs reveals that for all of the hullabaloo it causes, the spider infestation is confined to exactly two streets. Or rather, the same 50-yard square block of whatever backlot or set where this was filmed. A few dollars from the software budget should have moved across the spreadsheet to Production Design. A couple of signage swaps might have made a difference, although when the audience starts noticing continuity errors in set dressing, they are as good as gone.
While some FX shots can look like they were made with the Amiga computers left over from “Babylon 5,” there is genuine effort behind much of the CGI imagery. It is rare that the look of a film so heavily based on cost-effective animation would be let down by its practical props. In addition to the overused city block, there is a scene that takes place inside a warehouse that is evidently used to store empty cardboard boxes. The obvious fact that air is the only thing contained inside makes snickering the most likely reaction when pallets start tumbling.
The climax redeems some of the good faith lost in the middle act by fulfilling the promise of the poster and DVD/Blu-ray box cover. The final minutes of the film are given over to an Army-spider battle that any 1950’s era matinee would be proud to advertise on the marquee. Giant spiders satisfyingly spit their webs and skewer soldiers on pincers while the army men return fire with rocket launchers and spinning gatling guns. By this point though, the payout comes a little too late. The goodwill earned in the opening minutes was exhausted by a middle portion crawling so slowly, it only provided time to look around at all of the things going wrong.
What I hoped for was a 21st century version of “Tarantula.” I would have even settled for “Mant.” What “Spiders 3D” delivers is something fitting for a SyFy double-bill with “Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus.”
Review Score: 40