You know the type. They are the low-budget, usually ultra-cheesy monster movies found on the SyFy channel late at night, or even during weekend days. Okay, so they can be found playing on SyFy at pretty much any time! (Except during prime time on weekdays. That’s reserved for new series that won’t be given a fair chance to build a following.)
Among those films is 2000’s Spiders. Spiders was directed by Gary Jones, an effects artist who has also helmed other SyFy channel notables such as Crocodile 2, Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove, and Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan. He should arguably be better remembered for directing the 1994 Gunnar Hansen-starring film Mosquito, which has gained its own level of cult acclaim, primarily due to its laughable mosquito props. At least the creature effects in THIS film, handled by the crew at KNB, fair better. Well, kinda. I assume they aren’t bragging about this one.
As the film opens, a space shuttle is preparing for launch. Scientists aboard the craft will be conducting experiment research on spiders in the hopes of not only duplicating their alleged regenerative properties (this is the first I’m hearing about such things), but also looking into ways to use the creatures as deployable military weapons. Naturally, things will NOT go as initially planned.
We are soon introduced to a “Marci”, played by actress Lana Parrilla. Parrilla, as many know, would later find greater fame as the evil queen “Regina” on the highly popular ABC series Once Upon a Time. Here she plays a college reporter covering stories of UFO sightings and alien visitors for her campus newspaper. She is meeting with a couple who claim to come from the farthest reaches of the Alpha Centauri star system, even if the husband does have an accent that wavers between New Jersey and faux British and his wife speaks fluent Danish. The couple seem to react notably when shown a photo of what Marci believes to be a top secret military facility located somewhere in the deserts of the Southwest. Granted, it can’t be THAT “top secret” if Marci was so easily able to obtain photos of it.
While Marci may be much too willing to believe the couple’s claims unquestioningly, her editor is not. He sends the “aliens” on their way and berates Marci for wasting his (and her) time with such nonsense. He orders her to cover the recent shuttle launch instead, as well as the experiments that are to be conducted on the spiders aboard the craft. Convinced that she is truly on to something “big”, Marci disregards her editor’s orders and heads out in search of the compound. Her cameraman, Slick, and researcher, Jake, join her for the voyage.
Meanwhile, in Earth’s orbit, solar flares cause the shuttle to come crashing back to Earth. Far too conveniently, the shuttle crashes mere yards from the site of the mysterious facility that Marci and her friends have journeyed to investigate. Look for some very amateurish CG and model work during this sequence. They inspect the crashed shuttle, despite the fact that there should be some radiation or extreme heat generated from the shuttle’s plummeting through the Earth’s atmosphere, and find that the entire crew has been killed in gory fashion. All, that is, except for one of the pilots, who is now physically distorted from some sort of infection to his face. As the viewer already knows from having witnessed these scenes just moments earlier, that infection is actually a large spider living in this dude’s head!!!
Not wanting the project exposed to the public (or the spiders, for that matter), the government agent in charge of the project, Agent Gray (Mark Phelan), has the crash site destroyed of evidence. The injured pilot is taken to a lab located underneath the facility. Marci and her friends witness the entire incident, but are forced to hide in the back of a military cargo truck to avoid being caught. Unfortunately for them, it’s the same truck used to remove the corpses, which are tossed on top of them as they hide.
Marci and her crew arrive at the compound, and after one of the worst games of “hide and seek” I’ve ever witnessed, manage to infiltrate the lab without being seen by any of the soldiers. Along the way, they also discover that maybe the couple that Marci was interviewing during the opening segment weren’t as crazy as they appeared. They soon find the injured astronaut and attempt to question him about what actually happened aboard the shuttle. He mentions a “Project: Mother-In-Law” before vomiting bile all over Marci’s face. This is followed by the much-too-large-for-this-guy’s-head spider crawling out of the man’s mouth! The two doctors that had been attending to the man choose this inopportune time to return, resulting in one being killed, while the other is dragged off to presumably be used as food later.
The film attempts to add some padding to its run time by exposing some of the facility’s secrets, but this adds nothing to the plot. The next section of the film, which is essentially half of the film’s runtime, sees the students attempting to escape the compound while tailed by both a hostile Agent Gray (and his squad of soldiers), as well as a man-eating spider that seems to be increasing in size with each new meal! A majority of the primarily unessential cast meets their grisly end before another agent (Josh Green) joins the “good guys” side of the fight. Thankfully, it’s also around this time that the film finally remembers that it’s a dumb, lower-budgeted monster movie and starts having some fun with the idea. The “body count” does increase further as many nameless soldiers are picked off, but most of the deaths happen off-camera, so not many nice gory effects are to be found.
The final act consists of a showdown with a colossal-sized “mega” spider. The sequence begins with the spider busting through the walls of the college during the day, chasing down various coeds for a quick snack, and continues into the evening to find Marci dangling from a helicopter while holding a rocket launcher in her hands. The entire sequence is so preposterous that you just can’t take it serious for even one second. I mean, are we really supposed to believe that the “bad guy” secretly landed his helicopter in a parking spot?
Spiders could be found airing on the SyFy Channel (then Sci-Fi?) on many late nights and weekends during the early 2000’s. Hell, they may still occasionally air it today. Generally, films such as this need to be nothing more than mindless entertainment, capable of helping the viewer kill off 90 minutes or so. In those regards, Spiders still kinda sucks.
Sure, the film tends to get far more ludicrous than it rightfully should, and you might be able to get a few laughs out of the affair. However, it takes far too long to really get going, instead leaving the viewer shaking their head in disbelief at the numerous massive plotholes and scientific improbabilities presented in the film’s opening acts (and arguably more so during its final moments). Seriously, if it’s called “Spiders”, then why is there only one spider at a time? If I buy a bag of cookies, I sure as shit want more than one cookie!
The performances are, well, they aren’t good. Despite being the one to have the most future success, Parrilla may give the worst performance in the film. The CG effects, low-budget even for their time (the film was reportedly made for around 2 million), have not aged well at all. Frankly, there’s just not much here to really recommend. When compared to similar SyFy late night fare, you could do much worse. Then again, you could also do much better.
Spiders (as well as its sequels) is available as part of a triple-feature blu-ray set released by Echo Bridge in 2019. The HD transfer appears to be a dated one that was used for the film’s television broadcasts. It gets the job done, but is considerably lacking when compared to newer releases. The film is also available to watch for free with Amazon Prime Video.
Spiders Triple-Feature Blu-Ray: https://amzn.to/2uuEPix
Spiders on Prime Video: https://amzn.to/36wheeC