Camel Spiders (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Jay Andrews (AKA Jim Wynorski)
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Remember the scene in Ed Wood when Johnny Depp’s Edward D. Wood Jr. is shooting Plan 9 from Outer Space; after a tombstone falls over during the filming of a graveyard scene one of the producers wants to know why he wasn’t going to do another take given the obvious gaffe and Wood responds, “Nobody will ever notice that. Filmmaking is not about the tiny details. It's about the big picture.”
“The big picture” mentality must have been all that concerned Jim Wynorski while making Camel Spiders because the first half of this film is a hysterical Ed Wood-sian cornucopia of continuity errors, extreme logic gaps, and a complete disregard for common sense. For a good half this film could have been titled Plan 10 from Afghanistan.
Camel Spiders opens nicely with an opening credits scene boasting some suitably trippy music to get you in the mood for what’s to come. Then we’re dropped into the middle of a fire fight in what I presume to be Afghanistan. American forces are pinned down by Islamic radicals when several camel spiders come to the rescue. Not so much rescue as the bad guys just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
First thing of note here is the size of the camel spiders, ranging anywhere from small to the size of a dog. At no point is the unrealistically dog-sized camel spiders regarded as anything out of the norm. Regardless of how big they are, these are just your typical camel spiders as far as anyone’s concerned.
An American soldier is killed in the combat. Three relatively small camel spiders crawl into the dead guy’s mouth before his body can be collected. Platoon leader Brian Krause and a female officer are then seen driving a military truck transporting the body of his fallen subordinate through a barren landscape that looks exactly like the same location the Afghanistan scenes were shot in. In knew they had said Krause was being sent home for combat along with the fallen soldier but it wasn’t until small town sheriff C. Thomas Howell was shown driving down the same road in a police car did I fully realize the movie was now supposed to be taking place back in America.
The transport truck gets sideswiped by a speeding vehicle sending the wooden crate containing dead soldier flying out of the back. Those three camel spiders crawl out of the broken crate and disappear into the desert.
In the real world, the body of a fallen soldier is brought back with an American flag draped over the coffin. Here there is neither a flag nor a coffin. In the movie world of Camel Spiders, the bodies of dead soldiers it would seem are not even put into body bags before being unceremoniously dumped into cheap wooden crates that are then transported home with fewer adornments than a UPS package.
Now we have some teenagers looking for a spot in the desert for some nookie. The camel spiders kill them. To be more specific, about a half dozen camel spiders ranging from small to large attack them. Either those three smaller camel spiders spontaneously multiplied and exponentially grew in size in a matter of minutes or those three camel spiders unknowingly transported back the United States just happened to get loose in a section of the Texas desert already unknowingly populated by an invasive species of camel spiders.
Or option #3: Jim Wynorski doesn’t give a shit about your primitive notions of continuity. I believe this to be the correct answer given what happens next.
One teenage girl escapes the camel spider attack and flees miles down the road, not coming to a stop until she happens upon a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Inside this gas station she finds the proprietors cocooned in spider webs.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, Foy, so what? It’s illogical because the spiders somehow got miles down the road ahead of someone in a speeding car, right?” True. There’s something more important to consider from this scene. As is pointed out in the film at one point, camel spiders are not actually spiders. Despite their name, camel spiders only have six legs. Camel spiders are arthropods, not arachnids. They’re essentially scorpions without tails, not actual spiders. You realize what that means? Camel spiders are not spiders! THEY DON’T SPIN WEBS!
Another young women complains about how she can’t get a phone signal and not 30-seconds later a friend standing next to her is browsing the internet on his phone for information about camel spiders.
A group locks themselves up in a roadside diner and moments later the wall is covered with camel spiders with no indication (none that I saw) as to how they big bugs got into the barricaded building.
You have two options with a movie of this nature. You can either go with it and laugh at how unabashedly ludicrous it is or you can allow your brain to rebel against the idiocy of it all, in which case the question needs to be asked why you’re ever watching a movie called Camel Spiders from the director of Dinocroc vs. Supergator and the producer of Sharktopus to begin with. Me, personally, I was having a blast. It helped that Wynorski kept it all zipping along fast-paced. At least he did for the first 35-minutes.
That’s when Wynorski makes the biggest mistake a movie like this can make. Everything comes to a dead halt so that everyone can sit and walk around talking to each other in a needless attempt at character development. Usually character development is a good thing; here it is a momentum killer. All the gonzo energy of the first half is lost. What had been gleefully, manically, frenetically insane simply becomes inane and mundane. Like the proverbial air being let out of a balloon, the fun deflates and never recovers. Even when the camel spiders return it’s not the same, not as much fun.
Also not helping matters is by the second half the movie has played its entire bag of tricks and has nothing new to show us. The attacks become so repetitive they loose the giddy fun of earlier. We’ve already seen actors have camel spiders of both the computer generated and practical effects variety – both so hokey looking I doubt even the most jittery arachnophobe would be frightened – pounce on them, swarm them, land on their face, drag them around, and (my favorite) chase them via low-to-the-ground P.O.V. skitter cam.
Let me put it to you this way. You’ve seen how much of the first half I’ve described. I’d be hard-pressed to describe anything from the second half. The first half is loads of cheesy b-movie fun. The second half is… Seriously, I know I watched it but I barely remember anything after when they hold up in that factory. I do recall that by the end there appeared to be more camel spiders in Texas than Afghanistan and way too many characters were still standing as the credits roll.
Fans of b-movies and schlock cinema are going to have some fun with this newest creature feature from director Jim Wynorski and producer Roger Corman. Just don’t be surprised if you feel compelled to hit the fast forward button a few times during the second half.
2 1/2 out of 5
1/2 out of 5