Arachnoquake (2012)

Arachnoquake (2012)

The world will quake in fear

A series of earthquakes around New Orleans releases a new breed of deadly subterranean spiders that begin to terrorise the city.

 

Sy Fy does its best ten years overdue Eight-Legged Freaks impression with this laughably inept spider invasion flick. To say that they’ve covered virtually every single creature known to man in their Sy Fy Originals, I can’t recall them doing too many about spiders before and then all of a sudden, a couple come along at once. Camel Spiders was first in 2011 (though I haven’t seen it yet) and now along comes Arachnoquake, a film which evidently tries to play on its witty title in some self-belief that it’s different the other genre films. But, with the same old tired routines, clichéd characters, regurgitated scripts and low end CGI effects, it was never going to be anything other than run-of-the-mill. Truth be told, this is by no means the worst that Sy Fy has put out in the last couple of few years but….let’s face it with a title like Arachnoquake you’re hardly expecting The Godfather of monster movies are you?

One look at director Griff Furst’s list of prior credits should read like a warning sign: 100 Million BC, Swamp Shark and Lake Placid 3, the former being one of the worst creature feature films I’ve had the misfortune of reviewing. I’ve heard that Mr Furst has directly responded to fans criticism in the past so if you’re reading this – please stop making films!

It’s hard to say whether Arachnoquake is better or worse than the others but at least this seems to be intentionally goofy and gets marks for at least knowing how silly everything is, or rather the first half of the film. The earlier scenes at least have a healthy sense of humour to keep them going and for some reason this is put on the back burner at the half-way point. Way to go, discarding the only differentiation between yourself and any number of generic ‘monster on the loose’ movies. Like virtually every Sy Fy Original going, it’s so generic and routine that writing constant reviews for these films gets to be more of a slog than watching them is! Don’t get me wrong – I love repetitive. I’m a massive monster movie fan. I’m a massive slasher fan. They streamline a simple formula and recycle the same things over and over again. But the films only work if they are given life and a spring in their step. When they don’t, it’s because everyone involved, from the cameramen to the writers and directors to the actors, feel like they’re going through the motions because they’re contracted to. Unfortunately that’s what these Sy Fy Originals feel like – they’re not made for love of the genre, they’re made for cheap cash and to fill schedules. So the routine and repetition becomes their undoing, not their strength.

There are small mercies: Arachnoquake wastes little time in getting the spiders out of the ground and attacking people. So you won’t be bogged down with exposition, not that the film needs to expand on its one-note characters any further than the limited back story and characterisation they receive before all hell breaks loose – they even manage to squeeze the father-son love-hate relationship into this as a slacker son who has failed to live up to his father’s expectations is given the chance to redeem himself in this crisis. Yawn.

The narrative is split into three parts, each focusing on a different group of survivors until gradually their paths cross and they join together. Only the Ethan Phillips-Olivia Hardt thread was any good and that was simply because Phillips is a sorely underrated character actor, if somewhat annoying at times, and Hardt is one of the hottest women I’ve ever seen and gets to parade around in a pair of tiny shorts. Regardless of which thread the film follows at any one given time, the predicaments and situations that the characters find themselves in are predictable and uninteresting. Main characters seem to have taken that invincibility potion which spells doom for the minor characters with a handful of lines.

And these minor characters meet doom quite a lot. If it isn’t small spiders scurrying out of the ruptures in the ground, it’s giant spiders climbing up buildings. If you’re familiar with Sy Fy work, then you’ll immediately understand the level of special effects that are on display here. The CGI spiders look alright and that’s about the best I can say about them. You’ll never believe that they’re real but they hop, crawl and drop across the screen on a regular basis. They can swim. They can breathe fire. An interesting idea with the spiders nesting inside human hosts, resulting in bulbous puss sacks on the skin which explode, was introduced but then never really taken any further. And despite the fact that these spiders are supposed to be attacking all of New Orleans, on many occasions you can see down the next street where filming wasn’t taking place and observe traffic and pedestrians going about their daily business as normal.

Edward Furlong – remember him? Falling from grace after his time as John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Furlong fell into alcoholism and drug addiction. Time has not been kind to the man (he’s only a couple of years older than me!) and I didn’t recognise him at first. His bloated appearance and bored-stiff attitude doesn’t help the film when he’s supposed to be one of the ‘star’ names to sell the project to potential markets. It also doesn’t help when he’s given the main role in a side story in which his creepy bus driver is ferrying a school bus full of cheerleaders when they’re attacked by the spiders. This originally promised a lot – cheerleaders + hungry spiders – but failed to deliver anything – nudity, gore or even a decent set piece. Furlong is left huffing and puffing along until he catches up with the other survivors.

 

Inventive title aside, Arachnoquake is hardly a world beater nor is it the coming of the Angel of Death. It’s a film which exists for ninety minutes or so and is content with staying in its own little low scale world despite promising something a lot funnier and more entertaining at the start similar to Tremors or Eight-Legged Freaks. Sy Fy have hardly outdone themselves this time around but it could have been worse – though is that really a criteria to review a film around?

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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