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Ice Spiders (DVD)

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Ice Spiders (click for larger image)Starring Patrick Muldoon, Thomas Calabro, Vanessa Williams, David Millbern, Noah Bastien, Stephen J. Cannell

Directed by Tibor Takacs

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


Eight Legged Freaks meets Hot Dog: The Movie

Thought that’s not an entirely accurate description of Ice Spiders, that’s all I could think of as I watched acrobatic skiers getting tackled in mid-air by people-sized spiders.

Or maybe Melrose Place vs. The Spider would have been a better title given that three of the films stars are all ex-cast members of the defunct primetime soap opera?

Call it whatever you want, I’ll just stick to calling it a whole lot of fun.

Ice Spiders is pure Grade-A B-movie making; the sort of monster movie where whacking the creature with an ax doesn’t get the job done, but impaling it with the antlers of a mounted reindeer head does. I dare say Ice Spiders still takes itself a tad more seriously than even more over-the-top Eight Legged Freaks, but a serious monster movie this is not. If you’re looking to be scared then you’re in for a disappointment. If you’re looking for a good time being entertained by a creature feature that plays like a campier (and gorier) version of the sort of Saturday afternoon monster movie matinees of old then prepare to be pleasantly surprised. The important thing in this case is that it manages to be tongue-in-cheek without being aggressively stupid and consistently cheesy without constantly resorting to winking at the audience. Those are two nuisances I find often plague Sci-Fi Channel original movies that don’t try and take themselves too seriously (i.e. the ones that tend to be crushing bores!) The gleefully campy script by Eric Miller combined with Tibor (Mansquito Takacs) lively direction and a carefree cast that fully realizes the sort of movie they’re appearing in helps make Ice Spiders a rollicking romp.

A busload of Olympic ski hopefuls are headed up to a secluded resort run by Stephen J. Cannell (a much better producer than he is an actor) located up on “Lost Mountain” in Utah for two weeks of skiing with no cellphones, internet, or television to distract them from their training. The lodge’s head ski instructor is one “Dash” Dashiell (Patrick Muldoon, his every word spoken with a Spicolli-like sense of dudeness), a former national skiing champion who wiped out at the Olympic trials years earlier, shattered his leg, and has never been the same since, as evidenced by seeming his inability to comb his hair. Dash has the hots for Dr. April Summers (the other Vanessa Williams that caused the more famous Vanessa Williams to have to add an “L” to her screen name), a pretty researcher at a top secret government lab up the mountain who frequently has to come down to the ski resort to pick up her personal mail.

Dr. Summers returns to the lab after one of these mail runs to discover it in shambles and her colleagues, except for the one (soon-to-be dead) scientist cocooned for a later feeding by one of the mutant spiders that broke free and went crazy after their regular hormone-heavy food supply ran dry. Seems a plan to breed genetically engineered super spiders whose silk will then be used to create a new type of military body armor has resulted in a half dozen giant spiders with roid rage and ravenous appetites on a rampage. Who’d a thunk it given how rarely animal gene-splicing in the movies results in chaos and death?

Dr. Summers sounds the alarm alerting the paramilitary unit on duty led by Thomas Calabro. I can’t help but think Calabro, most famous for playing a scheming, backstabbing doctor on “Melrose Place”, would have been a much better choice to play the (more significant) role of Professor Marx, the requisite “evil” scientist in charge of the project who secretly accelerated the spiders’ growth and now demands the specimens be captured alive, showing little or no regard for the well being of others. Hey, it’s a Sci-Fi Channel original movie; there almost always has to be an evil scientist, military commander, or corporate executive to give the film a human villain.

Despite Professor Marx’s insistence that spiders don’t like the cold and therefore wouldn’t be running amok out in the freezing snow, that’s exactly what they’re doing. They are mutant spiders, after all. Now hunters, skiers, park rangers, and forest animals all find themselves on the menu of the augmented arachnids.

A pair of missing hunters leads local ranger Rick (Yes, “Ranger Rick”) to the lodge to recruit Dash to go searching for them since all his other rangers are currently (and conveniently) out with the flu. That search does not end well for one of the two searchers and given that Ranger Rick wasn’t played by a former cast member of “Melrose Place”, well…

There’s no arguing that the basic plot follows a tried and true formula, but this time it’s done with some genuine wit and zips along at a fast pace that never lets up. I don’t exactly how this Sci-Fi Channel does right what so many others have done so very wrong; I’m just thankful it does.

Soon it’s a mutant spider extravaganza with skiers and other hapless tourists getting chased down and gorged on by the spiders or snared with webbing and reeled in like fish for the kill. Those kills are often handled hilariously so – intentionally hilariously so, which is another huge difference between Ice Spiders and countless other Sci-Fi Channel originals that have come and gone.

Most of the survivors find themselves trapped in the lodge while some of the Olympic hopefuls find themselves trapped in a Jeepers Creepers 2 scenario, trapped inside a wrecked school bus under attack by one nasty bugger in particular. All the while, the military unit is trying to satisfy Professor Marx by capturing the spiders alive with net guns and keeping the now out of control project still a secret.

I freely admit to being a bit on the arachnophobic side myself, but Ice Spiders is a movie that I had no problem watching whatsoever. Chances are no one is going to get the heebie jeebies from watching these creepy crawlies in action because the computerized spiders don’t look even the least bit scary. That’s not meant as a knock against the CGI which is actually pretty good for such low budget schlock; though there was this one black spider in particular that looked positively inflatable. I never found them scary because, at least to me, they often looked more like big mutant ticks and they came in a variety of colors. Heck, one of the spiders was the same shade of green as Shrek! Watching these Skittles-shaded spiders in action – it was like witnessing a rainbow of fruit-flavored carnage!

There is a smattering of non-CGI spider action; though it’s mostly relegated to a spider head puppet sparingly used from time to time that pops up for a quick jump scare, usually at windows. I think that may have been the work of Fred Olen Ray, who I understand was brought in to help with the film’s second unit work.

I also couldn’t help but love the kooky spider-vision they viewed the world through. Forget the eight-eyed P.O.V. used in other spider movies, these spiders view the world like some sort of distorted funhouse mirror. The whole concept of the monster’s point-of-view has become a tired cliché to me but in this case I didn’t mind it because it was just one more goofy layer that added to the fun of it all.

I’ll tell you what; if more Sci-Fi Channel original movies were as much fun to watch as Ice Spiders, I’d dare say the network and their original movie division would have a much better reputation. It’s definitely worth giving a look. This is precisely the sort of unassuming b-movie that’s great to curl up with on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Ice Spiders spins a web of mirth and mayhem.

3 out of 3

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.59 (22 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.13 (23 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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