COMPANY: Active Entertainment
RUNTIME: 86 mins
PLOT: After earthquakes ravage New Orleans, dozens of locals fall victim to a previously unknown species of deadly albino spiders. Despite their best efforts, spiders swarm out of the earthquake-opened fissures and infest the city.
REVIEW: I've been backing killer spider movies now for awhile, hoping that they would overtake the shark movies as the popular go-to killer animal for B-Movie companies, however the first of many killer spider movies to hit this year, Roger Corman's Camel Spiders, was only so-so and far from the great 'Second Coming' that I was hoping it would be to usher in the other killer arachnid movies of 2012 and beyond. Well luckily, coming up on Saturday, June 23rd at 9pm Eastern Time on Space: The Imagination Station in Canada, and the SyFy Channel in the U.S., we have our second major spider movie of 2012 – the awesomely-titled Arachnoquake, starring none other then John Connor himself, Edward Furlong! And huge thanks to the wonderful people at Space: The Imagination Station (The Canadian affiliate for The SyFy Channel) for sending me a screener copy of Arachnoquake to check out for early review!
Sadly, my screener copy was only 58 minutes long. It would seem, judging by the regular length of a SyFy Original Movie, that there's roughly half an hour missing from the screener and I think a large portion of that, if not all, is the end. There may be a tad missing from the beginning, since when the screener starts it opens on two characters talking about the earthquake that's already happened, and one of them had already been bitten by a spider, but the title screen comes up shortly after that so I'm thinking that might really be how the movie starts. An hour into it though, the video just abruptly ends mid-battle, so I can't really comment on how it finishes or on anything that may be contained within that last half an hour. With that said, it's certainly a great way to get me to review the screener but still make sure I tune in for the movie when it airs, because I really loved what I saw here and I just can't wait to find out how it all finishes!
Arachnoquake starts off with a group of co-workers that work at a small egg farm out in the woods, and as they work and horse around with one another, they talk about a mysterious earthquake in the area the night before, and one of them complains about having been bitten by something in his sleep. It doesn't take long after that before we discover that the earthquake unleashed a nest of killer mutated albino spiders in the middle of New Orleans, that had previously been trapped below the ground where they evolved through the generations to the way they are now. Of course, as these things go in movies such as this, pretty soon after that the spiders start causing havoc in New Orleans and turn the city into an all-you-can-eat buffet of Human as they continue to grow and multiply, leaving it up to a slacker tour bus driver and his diverse group of tourists for the hour, to save the day.
I had quite a few surprises waiting for me within the confines of this movie, none of which I was expecting. First up is the acting; a few roles aside, the acting really impressed me from almost everyone, and not once did I ever stop and think 'Boy, that was some horrible acting right there.' Heck, even though Edward Furlong is the bigger name, it was Bug Hall as the slacker tour bus guide that really surprised me, and he was a much better actor then Furlong (who falls into the small 'few roles aside' section). Also, you just have to love that name – Bug Hall. My only wish at this point is that his next SyFy Original Movie be one about killer bugs. You just know he has to do it at some point (Bugpocolypse: Starring Bug Hall - seriously, somebody get on that). Also because of his great acting, as well as most everyone else's top-notch skills in this, a lot of the comedic beats honestly came across as genuinely funny. Far too often in B-Movies, moments that are meant to be funny just come across as a lame attempt, but here almost every time (and there is indeed quite a few), all the comedic beats and funny one-liners are full hits, thanks in large part to everyone's excellent comedic timing and acting abilities. Make no mistake – this movie knows exactly what it is and has tons of fun with it, and tons of fun making fun of itself, with almost every scene having some form of comedy within it, be it a visual gag, a one-liner, a silly sound effect, or an insane situation. Actually, one of my favorites is a Deep Blue Sea speech moment. Even though here it's pretty easy to spot coming from a mile away thanks to how the frame was obviously shot, but that didn't make it any less hilarious when it happened.
Another of the surprises are the creature effects. Are they great? No. But they are quite passable and fit within the surrounding physical environments far better then they did in Camel Spiders, and they never once took me out of the moment. Then again, it's hard to be taken out of the moment by low-quality effects when what they're doing is so amazingly cheesy that is is literally candy for the eyes; We have giant mutated albino killer spiders of all sizes ranging from tennis ball-sized to as large as a car rampaging through New Orleans and the surrounding backwoods areas, chomping down on people and webbing entire vehicles up, and we also have a few other little treats such as a scene where an alligator fights with one of the giant spiders in the swamps, and Edward Furlong, along with the girl softball team he coaches, take their bats to an attacking spider with hilarious results. Oh, and despite their large sizes, magically they're still light enough to walk on top of water, and scurry fast enough on it that they can keep up with a speeding boat! Like I said, such awesome cheese to fill your mind that the last thing you're thinking of are the effects because you're just having such a blast with everything else. And that's not even the cheesiest stuff with the spiders! There is one, um...special ability...that they can do, that I won't ruin here in my review, but let's just say I totally was not expecting it, and I loved it every time they utilized it (and the effects for it were indeed really well-done and realistic-looking).
Of course with a killer animal movie, there are two main aspects viewers normally look at – the animals themselves, and the kill scenes. While the death-by-spider scenes were normally either off-screen or light on the red gooy stuff, they made up for that by having very disgusting spider 'births'. See, it's never really explained how (at least not in the first hour that I saw), but everybody that got bitten by one of these spiders had spider eggs implanted in them within that bite, and it doesn't take very long for those baby spiders to...well...burst out. Yes - of the skin, in a grisly and disgusting display of puss and gore, done with a mix of CGI and excellent practical effects.
I do have one complaint though, but it really is only a minor one and it's to be expected in low budget fair like this where they don't exactly have lots of money to spend on background extras, but MAN, New Orleans sure is empty this time of year. There was rarely (if ever) anyone else on the streets of this supposed 'Party Central' city, other then our main group of characters, that at times I was starting to think if maybe what came up out of the ground wasn't albino spiders but really The Ancient Enemy from the 1998 movie-based-on-the-book Phantoms (Screw ya'll, I loved that movie). It would have been a nice touch to see other background people reacting to the invading army of spiders as well.
Apocalyptically-empty city aside though, there were some really great set pieces on display here, such as the tour bus weaving in and out of stand-still traffic in the middle of the city to try to shake off the spiders that were crawling all over it, or the above-mentioned spider chase across the surface of a bayou, or the spiders dragging someone through the thick vegetation of the swampy forest. And I must say, speaking as someone who spent three years in my youth working at a grocery store – I REALLY enjoyed this one scene where the main crew of characters were chased by one of the spiders through a grocery store (which much like the entire city around them was also 100% void of other people). Actually, this movie started really quick with the action and almost never let up on it for the entire run-time, save for maybe 60 seconds here and there in between, and almost every action scene took place within a different set piece so we got quite a nice variety of locations, which in my eyes was a really good creative decision as it prevented the movie from ever getting stale or repetitive. I'm always saying that the worst crime that a B-Movie can commit is to be boring, and this is certainly not guilty of that.
Having not yet been able to view the final half an hour, that's pretty much all I can say on the movie for now. I'm even more anxious then ever to watch the movie when it airs on June 23rd, cause I enjoyed the first hour so much that I'm looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up, especially after having seen some photos online of a couple shots from during that last half hour of the movie that included one of the spiders so big that it was as large as a house, climbing up two skyscrapers, and another shot of it in-battle with some military vehicles – NICE. My below rating is based on just the first hour, so it could easily go up or sink lower (or remain the same), depending on how that last half hour plays out when I watch it on Space. Either way, when Arachnoquake airs in-full on TV look to my Twitter page or Facebook Page to see what my thoughts on that final half hour were, since I don't really see the point in writing up a second review.
Missing 30 minutes aside though (since I can't really speak to that yet), this was a much better killer spider movie then Camel Spiders was, and more along the lines of what I was expecting Camel Spiders to be. If the other upcoming killer spider movies of 2012/2013 (Mega Spider and Spiders 3D) are anything like this, then spider movies still could be in the running to overtake the throne from the sharks as the new Rulers of the killer animal B-Movies! Muah ha ha ha ha!
9/10 rooms in the Psych Ward