Monday, December 24, 2007

IN THE SPIDER’S WEB (2007) d. Terry Winsor

Reviewed by Rick Trottier

Making a horror film “on the cheap” can be done successfully, but you’ve got to choose one of two paths for it to work. If you go with the “low brow” path, your horror flick needs to have a few scares, lots of skin and scads of silliness. HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND (1960) is a perfect example of a bad, “low brow” film that works in many good ways. To ascend the “high brow” path, you’ve got to have a good story and some good performances to pull off a fine film like TARANTULA (1955). If you don’t choose a path at all, you don’t go anywhere, and that is the problem with IN THE SPIDER’S WEB.

IN THE SPIDER’S WEB is the tale of a group of westerners traveling through the jungles of India who run afoul of spiders, scientists experimenting on spiders and spider-worshipping natives who do the spiders’ and scientists’ evil bidding. Before they know it, our hapless tourists are wound tightly in the machinations of Dr. Lecorpus and are unable to extract themselves from the clingy cords of his wily weavers. It takes some pluckiness and police to save their skins and souls.

IN THE SPIDER’S WEB is a SciFi production that was shot in Thailand using a very inexperienced cast with the notable exception of Lance Henrikson. As the malevolent Dr. Lecorpus, Henrikson gets it right, but he is one man against too many things wrong with this film. There is too little story stretched like gossamer gauze over too much film. At times the story seems to be going for grins and giggles, but it never really commits. At other times the story tries to descend into serious horror, but there aren’t any plot twists and compelling ideas to anchor the drifting dinghy. With such a thin tale spun so scantily, the onus is laid upon the actors and actresses to hold up the now two-legged table. Whether it’s the script or the talent, things go bad right from the start and are never able to fully recover despite Mr. Henrikson’s best efforts. For example, Gina, played by Emma Catherwood is a trim-figured cutie who is peevishly petulant for part of the film, then becomes a tough little tigress, only to meander miserably between grittiness and girlish screams, sobs and sulks. Most of the rest of the cast is wooden at best with the notable exception of Sohrab Ardeshr, whose portrayal of Seargeant Chidhri was wonderfully comic. Sadly, since IN THE SPIDER’S WEB did not take the “low brow” path and did not include a lot more laughs, parade Miss Catherwood and a half dozen other beauties around naked and splash the screen with a lot more arterial spray, Mr. Ardeshr’s performance is wasted. Since the performances aren’t strong, the one-legged table is going to topple and this one does.

Sadly, like most ineffective films, there are always a few worthy elements that leave the viewer scratching their heads wondering “why couldn’t this film have been better”? The Thai exterior sets have an authentic “jungle movie” feel and the webby cave tunnels were effectively constructed and lit so as to be creepy and cool. The mix of real spiders, puppets and CG spiders made for some less than genuine imagery, but I’ve seen worse in much more expensively made films. The set designers and make up teams for IN THE SPIDER’S WEB put together backdrops that would have effectively supported a better written script and stronger acting.

The last bad taste in the mouth was that IN THE SPIDER’S WEB is a bare bones disc. Possibly the spiders stripped it clean, but there is NOTHING to be had beyond the “play film” and “scene selection” menu options. Including some interesting extras on any bad dvd can save the experience to some measure, but obviously that may have cost too much money and the makers of this film evidently wanted to pinch as many pennies as they could.

SciFi produced films don’t all have to be like this. For example HAMMERHEAD (2005) and ABOMINABLE (2006) were both entertaining flicks. IN THE SPIDER’S WEB walked aimlessly through the jungle, found the path that lead to the quicksand and sank out of sight leaving not even a ripple.

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