Thursday, November 1, 2012
Movie Review: ARACHNID
2001, Lions Gate Entertainment, HF/SS, $69.99, VHS
DD-5.1/16:9/LB/ST/+, $24.99, DVD-1, 95m 18s
By John Charles
Originally published in Video Watchdog #89
While out testing his plane, a stealth fighter pilot accidentally crashes into a UFO, causing severe damage to both crafts. Debris from the aliens' ship lands in a remote Mexican jungle region, releasing a giant-sized spider creature. Some time later, the indigenous people begin to turn up dead under mysterious circumstances and the authorities are unable to identify the poison in the victims' bodies. A medical expedition is mounted by Dr. Leon (Jose Sancho), who enlists the aid of ex-Marine Valentine (Chris Potter) and female pilot Mercer (Alex Reid). An inexplicable power failure in the aircraft forces Mercer to make a crash landing that leaves the passengers stranded and unable to call for help, when their cell phones prove mysteriously inoperative. One man falls victim to oversized ticks that quickly burrow their way inside him and the party discovers that the entire village of people they sought to help have disappeared without a trace. Arachnologist Capri (OCTOPUS' Ravil Isyanov) finds mutated spiders, whose new forms are unheard of in nature, and the tick carrier turns out to also be carrying the creatures' ravenous offspring. Rapid inter-species mutation has turned the area into a zone of horrors, with the spider its biggest and most formidable predator.
Another by-product of producer Brian Yuzna's partnership with Filmax International of Spain, ARACHNID was directed by Jack Sholder, who showed genuine talent in THE HIDDEN (1987) but has helmed nothing but forgettable TV movies and mediocre genre programmers in the interim. This film falls squarely into the latter category, with a predictable scenario, cardboard characters, a thoroughly uninspired nightmare sequence, and an open ending that leaves virtually nothing resolved. Surprisingly, the spider is rendered almost entirely with animatronics, rather than through CGI, which is just as well as the digital effects that have been included (like the opening sequence with the UFO) are poorly executed. The creature is nicely designed, and Sholder rather bravely presents it in full view during a daylight sequence, but its movements are unconvincing, particularly when the thing is required to leap out and attack. Sholder manages a few atmospheric moments here and there but the only attempts at suspense (like characters reaching blindly into dark holes) fail because of the formula plotting: the viewer knows exactly when it is time for someone to die and, more often than not, will also successfully guess just who that next victim will be.
The transfer looks terrific, with a razor sharp image and deep colors. The surround channels are utilized effectively, though the bass is not as heavy as one might like. Matted to 1.80:1, the anamorphically enhanced DVD (compressed by Advanced Media Post) is more effectively composed and comes with optional English captions (heavily paraphrased and filled with typos) and Spanish subtitles. As with some other Lions Gate titles, left clicking on the main menu page provides access to trailers, in this case, ARACHNID, Nu Image's atrocious SPIDERS, and the Australian thriller RISK.