Written by: Jim Wynorski, J. Brad Wilke
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Starring: Brian Krause, C. Thomas Howell and Melissa Brasselle
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
They really get under your skin.
The latest production from the epically horrific tag team of Roger Corman and Jim Wynorski actually dials the absurdity down a bit; whereas their last outing featured two oversized predators, Camel Spiders only features one, and, sadly, this isn't one of those creature mash-ups that would fuse a camel with a spider, no matter how fucking cool that would be. Instead, these spiders (which really arenít spiders due to having only six legs) actually exist, though I think any arachnophobe will be relieved to discover they canít really grow to the mammoth size seen here. At any rate, no matter the size of the beasts in question, thereís rarely any chance that any of these movies will be any good, and I think the best you can hope for is that they actually go as big and stupid as they possibly can on Cormanís loose change budget. Camel Spiders doesnít quite manage to do that, as it ends up being yet another mechanical exercise in low-budget junk use to fill out a SyFy Saturday Night.
We start in the spidersí natural habitat--the Middle East, where some American soldiers are engaged in a scuffle with some insurgents. The Americans get an assist when these big arachnid bastards creep up on the enemy; unfortunately, they still suffer some casualties, which is convenient for the spiders since they like to hang out in dead bodies and end up hitching a ride in the corpse of one of the fallen. Upon being transported to the States, the body is involved in a car accident, so the camel spiders are unleashed on United States soil, where they proceed to do damage over the next 75 minutes.
You know the formula from there: weíre introduced to a slew of random, unconnected characters, most of whom only serve to demonstrate just how vicious these title creatures are. You have the random group of kids who are set for a weekend retreat full of adventures (read: screwing) before getting mauled to death. Then thereís the group of biology students (thatís convenient) that get stuck in a nearby farmhouse, and then thereís also the locals who hole up with the aforementioned military forces at a compound. Camel Spiders mostly just bounces back and forth between these latter two sets of characters, with the twain never meeting; the only thing these two groups have in common (besides being besieged by giant CGI spiders) are stupidly-written and poorly acted characters, though that comes with the territory.
Also coming with the territory are the requisite cheap effects--the spiders are indeed CGI and are laughably wedged into the proceedings. The same can also be said for the gore effects, which similarly look like theyíve been splashed on by a guy using Photoshop. Watching it, I couldnít help but think how awkward it must be for actors on the sets of these movies; one minute youíre running from an invisible spider, then youíre suddenly falling to the ground in hysterics, scratching and clawing away at a beast thatíll eventually be superimposed on your body (which will then be replaced with a poor CGI model thatís missing a limb or two). So itís all very cartoony and not all grisly, and itíd be charmingly bad if Corman and company actually had some honest-to-god practical inserts here and there. Instead, itís just weightless and takes away most of the appeal of watching a movie thatís centered around people being devoured by huge, ravenous spiders that can jump and move at cheetah-level speeds.
Speaking of the human part of the equation, these productions always come with at least one or two familiar faces whose career is apparently in need of hitting rock bottom. On the chopping block this time is a hilariously bored C. Thomas Howell, who shows up as a local sheriff. Brian Krause is also here to assist him as the lead army captain that gets to spit out hilarious platitudes; at one point, he claims something isnít a responsibility but a duty, at which point you begin to wonder why everyone is leaning on this guy to lead them to safety. Speaking of dumb, thereís also a girl that looks to be about 12 or 13, but sheís written as if she were half that age, and everyone sort of talks down to her as if she were special. She does some typically stupid things, like wander off when there are giant spiders around (if you watch The Walking Dead, you see this sort of behavior from Carl on a weekly basis).
The amount of interpersonal drama (if one could call it that) the screenplay packs in is ridiculous--the girlís parents are in the process of splitting up, thereís a couple of snaky guys trying to bilk some of the other characters out of their land, etc. One of these guys is especially prickish and would provide the filmís most wanted and spectacular death if Wynorski actually had any sense of dramatic flair (or a budget, the lack of which is the real terror that haunts this movie). That sort of slapdash recklessness and a willingness to just continually stuff plotlines and characters into the proceedings actually serves Camel Spiders pretty well for about 40 minutes. After that point, it just comes to a crawl and turns into a repetitive cycle of watching people explore abandoned houses and shoot at the title characters. It starts with the potential to be among the best of these new-wave Corman creature features, but ends up just being in the middle of the pack, so slide your expectations scale accordingly. Anchor Bay again does the honors by delivering an unrated version of the flick on DVD, where its presentation is solid enough; the filmís production design and cinematography is very vanilla, so the transfer is nothing special, but the soundstage is impressive, what with all the gunfire and hordes of insects scuttling all over the place. There are no extras, so Wynorski and Corman never have a chance to explain themselves--not that they have to. Their reputations speak for themselves, and Camel Spiders more or less makes the same case as most of their recent output. Rent it!
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