As Giant Creatures Attack movies go, Jack Sholder’s “Arachnid” is pretty decent. But as a regular movie regardless of genre, it’s lacking. Starring Chris Potter as Valentine, an ex-military who leads a medical expedition to an isolated island to help some locals, “Arachnid” features a giant spider that has been mutated by alien experimentation. Although the aliens themselves (actually, alien, as in singular) only shows up for about 20 seconds of total screentime, our Giant Creatures Attack movie still breaks rank from its brethren, which prefers toxic mutation or human genetic experimentation gone bad to create its giant menacing creatures.
Not nearly as bad as it could have been given the situation, “Arachnid” features some sympathetic characters that are less prone to silly character motivations made notorious in other Giant Creatures Attack movies like, say, “Python 2″, or any film by the UFO Film Company (e.g. “Epoch”). Alex Reid, who could past for a younger sister of Jennifer Garner (“Daredevil”), plays Mercer, a commercial pilot hired by Valentine’s group to take them to the island. Mercer soon learns that she has a connection to the island and it has something to do with a crashed alien ship and a missing pilot.
Directed by Jack Sholder, who gained cult status with “The Hidden”, “Arachnid” suffers most from its obvious low budget. The island, though it looks like an actual location, looks nowhere as dangerous as it’s supposed to; I’ve seen more dangerous looking foliage in my local city park. Also, the movie’s main draw, its giant spider, is all practical special effects and the result is not kind. Most low-budget filmmakers realize they have no budget for a really good creature, so decide to go with “new” technology (i.e. CGI creatures) rather than rely on the old, since the end result is pretty much the same. I guess it’s better to be cutting edge and lame instead of just old fashion and lame.
Despite its drawbacks, there’s a lot to like about “Arachnid”. Chris Potter makes a good square-jaw hero, although for some reason his ex-Marine seems to lack the understanding that once you load a weapon’s chamber you don’t have to keep doing it. Alex Reid makes a good heroine, with the right combination of resourcefulness, smarts, and vulnerability. Of course it doesn’t hurt that she looks good in a tank top and has obvious skills. Her personal scenes with Potter’s Valentine, usually the kiss of death for many low-budget movies employing lesser skilled actors, make up some of “Arachnid’s” most entertaining moments.
Unfortunately the general direction by Sholder is quite ordinary. There’s no standout sequence and much of the film feels uninspired. The giant spider doesn’t make a full appearance until after the halfway mark, after which the movie turns into a Teen Slasher film, with the spider killing off members of the expedition one by one until the inevitable final confrontation. Most of the movie’s action sequence reeks of poor editing and lazy camerawork, and once again I have to wonder what happened to the man who directed the exhilarating “The Hidden”?
For a Giant Creatures Attack movie, “Arachnid” benefits most from a good cast and a screenplay by Mark Sevi that doesn’t boggle the mind with too many logic-deprived moments (although it still has its share). Potter and Reid do good work, as well as Jose Sancho as the resident scientist, a man who seems incapable of being nice, although the movie does well by not treating him as an outright villain as many Creatures Attack movies are wont to do. The rest of the cast, with the exception of Rocqueford Allen as Bear, one of Potter’s men, flashes by in a blur of victims-to-be.
Not as bad as it could have been, but not as good as it might have been, “Arachnid” is a good distraction. It makes do with what it has, and one can imagine that with a bigger budget it could have blown away “Eight Legged Freaks” by a long shot.
Jack Sholder (director) / Mark Sevi (screenplay)
CAST: Chris Potter …. Valentine
Alex Reid …. Mercer
Jos’ Sancho …. Dr. Samuel Leon
Neus Asensi …. Susana
Ravil Issyanov …. Henry Capri