Spiders 3D (2012)
Directed by Tibor Takács
When you hear a title like Spiders 3D, it immediately conjures up images of old B-movies where the premise is “something small becomes big and attacks.” Veteran director Tibor Takács doesn’t necessarily use those films as a template but rather as a jumping off point to bring the nostalgic feeling of those old films into the modern era.
Spiders 3D opens up with shots of a derelict satellite in Earth’s orbit that’s littered with long deceased corpses and covered wall-to-wall with spider webbing. A piece breaks off and streaks through the atmosphere, eventually crashing through a street in New York, landing in a subway tunnel. That’s when New York subway supervisor Jason (Muldoon) hits the scene. It begins just like any other day for Jason. He goes to work, jokes around with co-workers, and locks in for another day of telling trains where to go and when. But when he feels the tremor of the space garbage’s impact, he knows something’s up.
The first man on the scene, a veteran subway worker and friend of Jason’s, investigates the debris and before long, of course, is bitten by the alien spider. He tries to call for help, but he can’t get any reception on his radio. The poison acts quickly and he keels over, landing on the third rail and frying himself in the process. When the paramedics arrive, they chalk up the death to electrocution and leave it at that. Jason isn’t so sure, however. He knows that a guy with so much experience wouldn’t make such a careless mistake, but he has no time to investigate because he has more pressing matters to attend to.
When he finally makes it down into the tunnel itself, he’s bombarded by a litany of questions from the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Rachael (Campbell), who works for the Health Department. After getting a little closer look, all of them sign off on reopening the tunnel except Rachael, citing health concerns for the passengers. Jason tries to talk her out of it, but she won’t budge. It’s at that point that the military, as they’re wont to do, roll in and quarantine several city blocks, under the guise of a viral outbreak, to try to keep the situation under control.
Jason is then finally able to go to the hospital and get to the bottom of what exactly happened to his friend. He talks to the attending doctor and finds out that it wasn’t, in fact, the electrocution that killed him. It was the bite from an unidentified insect. Furthermore, when she performed the autopsy, she discovered that he had been implanted with insect eggs of undetermined origin. Jason is shocked but asks for some of the eggs so he can take them to be analyzed.
Now, I personally don’t know a lot about the ins and outs of an autopsy - I’m not a medical professional after all - but if it were me performing that procedure, if I found inexplicable giant insect eggs inside a recently deceased corpse, I’d probably have a stronger reaction than, “Oh, huh, that’s weird.” And I certainly wouldn’t give one to some dude that walks in off the street.
Anyway, not only have the spiders killed a friend, but they’ve also made Jason miss his daughter, Emily’s (Sydney Sweeny), 12th birthday dinner. It seems like these bugs really have it out for this guy. Jason heads over to Rachael’s apartment to apologize to his daughter and drop off her birthday gifts. He also brings along the eggs and asks Rachael to take a look at them. After running tests, she discovers that the eggs have absolutely no bacteria present. And since everything on earth has some form of bacteria on it, she determines they must be of alien origin. She brings it up with a superior, but he brushes it off as paranoia. Again, this is something that seems like it should be a bigger deal, but whatever.
It turns out that, surprise surprise, one of the eggs in question is the lynchpin of the military’s entire plan. See, they need this egg because it’s a queen egg, and the queen is the only one of the spiders able to spin a web of high enough quality to serve their purposes. The queen’s web is nigh on indestructible, and with it they’ll be able to create new bulletproof armor and stealth technology that will change the balance of world power.
The spiders were initially a project headed up by a Russian scientist back in the U.S.S.R. named Dr. Darnoff, who reveals that years ago they discovered an extraterrestrial DNA out in the void of space and tried gene splicing with every creature under the sun, but it was only the spider that was able to survive after the process was completed. After his country fell, the project was abandoned. He sees the satellite falling from space as his final chance to complete his life’s work. He instructs the military’s sharp end of the stick, Colonel Jenkins, to retrieve the egg, or all their plans will be foiled.
When the military discovers Rachael’s report on the eggs, they jump into action, locking down her apartment with Emily trapped inside. Colonel Jenkins will stop at nothing to retrieve the queen egg and eliminate any ties to the satiation. From that point on it’s up to Jason and Rachael to evade the soldiers and spiders, save their daughter and make it out of this mess alive.
Tone in a film like this is absolutely paramount. If it takes itself too seriously, it’s no fun. If it’s too silly, then it just becomes a big joke. But Takács is able to toe that line admirably. While it may take itself a bit too seriously from time to time, it never delves into melodrama or anything along those lines. Takács and company knew exactly what kind of movie they were making. They had no allusions of making a serious drama about the horrors of genetic manipulation or man’s inhumanity to man; they just wanted to make a movie about giant evil mutated alien spiders from space wreaking havoc in New York City. And on that front they hit the nail on the head.
The performances are surprisingly solid all around. Nobody will be taking home any golden statues, but they definitely didn’t phone it in either. Muldoon and Campbell are very good in the parents in peril roles, Sweeny is admirable as the child in distress and the villains are just over the top enough to keep things fun.
It does take a little too long to get going, however. When I see a movie called Spiders 3D, I want spiders in my face ASAP; but it’s not until around halfway through the film’s running time that things really start going off. But once the bullets and bodies start flying, it keeps up a pretty fast pace. And when the queen spider makes her spectacular first appearance, all bets are off.
A movie like really this sinks or swims on the strength of its monster design. If the monsters aren’t intimidating, then there’s no way they can build any kind of real tension or suspense. Thankfully, the spiders themselves are up for the task. Regular earthly spiders in general are pretty gross by themselves, but when you add giant spear-like appendages growing out of their heads and maws filled with teeth that would give Jaws a run for his money, you’re taking it to the next level. Arachnophobes, beware.
3D is becoming a little passé nowadays. What was once a clever little gimmick to squeeze some extra cash out of moviegoers is now seemingly becoming an albatross around the neck of those very same films because people just aren’t willing to fork over the extra money for the third dimension tax. But I think it works to the benefit of Spiders 3D. Not because the 3D effect itself is necessarily better than its contemporaries (it was shot in 3D, not post converted), but because it adds to the overall theater experience. This is a movie you want to see on a big screen with the sound booming. I don’t really know how it’ll play on the small screen, but sitting in a cinema wearing a pair of goofy glasses and having the building shake whenever the queen spider took a step was an absolute blast. And if you’re going to see a movie about giant spiders, you might as well see it in 3D, right?
Spiders 3D is an absolute perfect title for this film. It delivers exactly that - nothing more, nothing less. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but it’s not attempting to be. I know it’s a little cliché to say, but this movie isn’t exactly trying to be Shakespeare. It doesn’t want to be The Godfather or Citizen Kane or Casablanca. All it wants to do is deliver a little giant spider mayhem in the third dimension, and sometimes that’s okay. If you’re the type of person that hears the name Spiders 3D and your brain lights up with excitement, then by all means check it out. You’ll have a good time.
3 out of 5