Monday, November 23, 2009
Review: Kingdom of the Spiders
Synopsis: When a small Arizona town finds itself the target of millions of hungry tarantulas, can the local vet and his entomologist lover save the town from being overrun, or are they all doomed to be the spiders newest food supply?
Review: Right off the bat, you have to know going in, that "Kingdom of the Spiders" is hardly a tour-de-force effort of film-making. It's a low-budget suspense horror film, filled with 70's cheese-tasticness. That said, however, the film does manage to entertain.
William Shatner, the perennial "cool guy" every nerd-boy wishes they could be, plays Dr. Robert "Rack" Hansen, a vet who's town is soon overrun by the eight-legged fury of millions of tarantulas. It seems the destruction of their usual food supply, by the careless use of pesticides, has caused them to look into a new source of sustenance... humans!
The overall acting in the film is passable, if unremarkable. Even the usually flamboyant stylings of "The Shat" are subdued here. There's the attempt to play up some human drama, through a love triangle between Rack, the beautiful entomologist (played by Tiffany Bolling) and the widow of Rack's dead brother (played by Marcy Lafferty). You get a couple of glimpses of Shatner's typical sexual charisma from it, but little else as far as the story goes. In fact, the whole pacing of the story is quite slow for the first 45-55 minutes of the film. This is surely to help set up the film's final act, when the spiders go on their rampage, but it isn't as effective as they probably were intending.
Really, the story and drama hinges on the spider attacks. Building slowly on the creepy feeling invoked by the spiders, watching them move from killing livestock to humans, it does create a sense of eerie tension. It plays to a fear many of us have of creepy-crawly insects and their ability to overwhelm us with sheer numbers. Director John "Bud" Cardos does effectively make the spiders into not only a credible threat, but a menacing one, as well. The scene of the townsfolk running in chaotic panic when the spiders begin attacking in force, will surely make most anyone's skin crawl. And the downbeat ending of the film is, without question, one of the best parts of the film. No typical Hollywood "happy ending" here, which only helps the movie to retain it's cult status. The film's attempt at a morality tale, by showing that mankind needs to show more respect towards nature, is both heavy-handed and poorly contrived, but that's only to be expected in a b-grade piece of 70's horror.
"Kingdom of the Spiders" is a fine piece of 70's kitsch-cinema, which doesn't try to make itself out as much more than that. And while it may pale in comparison to other movies about man facing "nature's revenge" (like "The Birds" or "Jaws", just to name a couple), it certainly is worthy of it's place of cult horror status. Just make sure to keep a can of bug spray close by, as you watch it.
Rating: 2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)