DVD Review: Fantastic Factory Presents ‘Arachnid’

Posted on April 12, 2011 by Ben

Arachnid (2001)
Distributor: Arrow
DVD Release Date (Fantastic Factory Boxset): 18th April 2011
DVD Release Date (Individual): 6th June 2011
Directed by: Jack Sholder
Starring: Chris Potter, Alex Reid, José Sancho, Neus Asensi
Review by: Ben Bussey

Yes, that thing you see in the picture above, and on the DVD cover art to the left, is a giant spider. Having said that, no further synopsis of Arachnid is really required, but what the hell: when a man escapes his village on a remote jungle island riddled with gaping wounds and an aggressive poison in his bloodstream which shortly results in a horrible death, some local medical types (Jose Sancho and Neus Asensi) naturally think “Hey, we should go check this place out!” And so, hiring protection from ex-marine Valentine (Chris Potter) and his motley band of grunts, and transportation from hotshot pilot Mercer (Alex Reid), they head out to explore and discover. Unsurprisingly they find themselves up shit creek without a paddle in no time, as some unknown interference messes up the plane, forcing a crash landing on the beach. With tensions rife among the members of the expedition, they head out into the jungle, unaware of the horror that awaits them… in the form of a great big fuck-off spider from another world, no less.

Yes, I know, to a 2011 audience this reads like the synopsis of a SyFy movie of the week. But think back if you will; there was a time when films of this nature actually did offer sufficient bang for buck, with plot and character development and humour that actually hit the mark, and shot on such a scale that they actually pulled off convincing and compelling creature effects. Think Tremors, Anaconda, Deep Blue Sea. Now, Arachnid isn’t quite so slick and expensive a B-movie as any of those, but it’s certainly a cut above the likes of Sharktopus. And, as part of Arrow’s boxset celebrating Brian Yuzna’s Fantastic Factory, it’s a good indicator of the diversity of the production house’s output.

The key question that kept running through my head during the movie was: this Chris Potter guy is okay and everything, but how the hell did Bruce Campbell let this part get by him?! For crying out loud, it’s an ex-marine named Valentine who leads an expedition through a jungle island to do battle with a giant spider; in other words, it’s got Bruce written all the way through it like a stick of rock. Ah, c’est la vie. Meanwhile, British actress Alex Reid – subsequent star of The Descent who has unfortunately seen her career put back several years due to her having the same name as one of the numerous himbo husbands of tabloid gargoyle Katie Price – looks as though she’s screen-testing for Lara Croft with her pony tail, short-shorts and agreeably low cut vest. All that’s missing are the guns, the shades and the plummy English accent, though her American twang is perfectly passable. As tends to be the case with Fantastic Factory films, the leads (plus Rocqueford Allen as the aptly named Bear) are the only non-Spanish actors in the cast, and all the supporting players (particularly Neus Asensi, who is also considerate enough to sport a low-cut vest) deliver all that is required of them, which naturally isn’t much; this is a creature feature, after all.

And the creature itself? Well, considering this isn’t an especially big budget film, it’s pretty damn good. That low-rent CGI which has marred so many similar films from the mid-90s to the present day (including the aforementioned Anaconda, and moments in Deep Blue Sea) is happily absent, with all the creature FX realised via good old-fashioned practical animatronics. That there is a certain creakiness to these FX in places is all part of the charm, sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone opposed to Hollywood’s infatuation with doing everything digitally (and we can safely count the film’s subsequently retired FX guru Steve Johnson among those numbers, if the impassioned, possibly drunk interview he gives in the extras is anything to go by).

There’s very little to single this out as a Jack Sholder film; any thematic or stylistic links to the likes of Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and The Hidden must have escaped my attention. Indeed, there’s little to single this out as a Yuzna production; it’s nowhere near as lurid, grotesque or deliberately offensive as the bulk of his work. It’s just a simple monster movie, and for what it is you could do a hell of a lot worse.

Arachnid is part of the Fantastic Factory Presents boxset from Arrow, which will be released on the 18th of April along with Beyond Re-Animator (reviewed here), Faust: Love of the Damned (reviewed here), and Romasanta the Werewolf Hunt (to be reviewed soon). It will also be released individually just in time for Damien’s birthday. If your significant other is arachnophobic and you want to make them squirm, track it down. Not that I am in any way frightened of spiders, of course… OHFUCKMEBACKWARDSWHATJUSTWALKEDACROSSTHEWALL?!!!

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