How do you judge or rate an individual film's worth? That's the question I ask myself every single time I sit down to type up a review. Should I compare this film with CITIZEN KANE or THE GODFATHER or some other film generally regarded as one of the finest cinematic accomplishments of all time? That hardly seems fair, especially since I'm usually dealing with horror or kung fu flicks. So then, should I judge it against some ideal of GENRE perfection as they do in a cat show where they compare every single cat against the specifications for perfection within its own particular breed? Persian against Persian, Siamese against Siamese? Then at the end of the day all breeds compete against each other for Best in Show. Well, that's not very fair either because it doesn't take the low budget independent films into consideration. In the end you still wind up judging a house cat against a Persian--an indie against a blockbuster. BATMAN,THE DARK KNIGHT against CURSE OF THE QUEERWOLF.
After much thought on the matter my criteria for judging any film no matter the genre (which I seem to repeat at any and every possible opportunity) is this; How much did the film makers manage to accomplish with the resources at their disposal? Obviously the standard is going to be higher for those with a lot of money available to them for the simple reason that they have absolutely no excuse NOT to turn out a first rate film. They can hire the best actors, writers, technicians, anything and everything they want is right there at their beck and call. The only justifiable reason for failure under those circumstances would be either lack of talent or excessive interference by the people who control the money. However at a certain level the latter ceases to be a problem and we are left with only one conclusion: They should be watching movies, not making them.
My criteria for low budget film makers is the same, but since their resources may often be limited to how much they can squeeze onto their own credit cards, I am inclined to feel a lot more generous toward them and their films. Mark Pirro for instance turned out his classic 8mm film A POLISH VAMPIRE IN BURBANK for well under $8,000! Although I've never heard its budget, Peter Jackson's BAD TASTE was filmed while he was still in high school so I doubt that a lot of money was spent on it. And at the head of the low budget wave, almost like a nouveau Roger Corman, is Brett Piper who has turned out an impressive number of cheap flix over the past decade or two. Among these films is ARACHNIA, one of my favorites. Arachnia has everything I look for in an entertaining film. Its made with the same sense of fun and adventure as the giant bug movies from the 1950's and features Piper's trademark stop motion animation of the titular arachnids which come in all sizes up to and including as big as a pick-up truck. But let's start at the beginning, shall we?
Our story opens with a small plane crashing when the concussion from a nearby meteor impact knocks it out of the sky. Our survivors include; heroic pilot Shaun Pachowski (Rob Monkiewicz), Professor Mugford (David Bunce) an expert in vertebrate paleontology who was flying to a dig in Arizona, Chandra his more than able personal assistant (Irene Joseph), grad student Deke (Dan Merriman) whose purpose is to provide comic relief and possible spider fodder, and the Doublemint Twins (Bevin McGraw and Alexxus Young) whose purpose it is to provide adolescent male stimulation vis a vis some girl on girl and, possibly become spider fodder too.
Our intrepid group decides to hike 50 miles in the dark to where the nearest town is supposed to be, and so off they go towards their date with animated destiny. Fortunately they encounter one of those conveniently located deserted cabins that every movie seems to have and they decide to call it a night. But not before the Doublemint twins get in a little bath time and the opportunity to show that they have not as yet availed themselves of the services of a plastic surgeon. (English translation, they have real breasts.) This is approximately the point at which the cabin's owner shows up, Moses Cobb by name (James Aspden). He gets an eyeful of Twin and then repays everyone by showing them what he has out in the barn. A GIANT DEAD SPIDER! The Professor of course asserts that its a fake and is forced to sleep in the barn with it for his poor manners. (Moral: Don't be rude to farmer's with Big Dead Spiders.) Later that night the saxophone music starts and the Twins get to show why the got hired for this movie in the first place. (I think there might have been a longer version of this scene, since mine ends rather abruptly, thank God) And that's when the spiders decided to ATTACK EN MASSE, I guess they'd had enough g on g too.
This movie really is a lot of fun if you'll just ease up and let yourself go with it. Both Irene Joseph who plays the Professor's beautiful, take-charge African-American assistant and Rob Monkiewicz, the heroic and extremely well-built pilot who seems much too smart to be in the situation he's in, are Piper regulars. They both bring more humor and believability to their roles than one would expect in a low budget film, and why shouldn't they? They're hardly novices anymore. Dan Merriman is a bit irritating as the comedy relief, but then he's supposed to be. David Bunce as the Professor is every bit the arrogant academic the role calls for, and the Doublemint twins, well, they have all the right parts for their parts.
It's always a joy to see stop motion animation in this world of over-blown, over-utilized, heartless, sterile CGI. I don't care if the animation would have to improve 100% in order for the spiders to look even vaguely realistic. I admire the people who take the time and the effort to animate the old way--it has more soul. And I just have a soft spot in my heart for these goofy looking arachnids who have more eyes than any spider has ever needed before. And when you add the heroics of Rob Monkiewicz, Spider Slayer, wielding his chainsaw and looking for all the world like Bruce Campbell on steroids to the picture--well, you've made my week! Does this movie make sense? Kinda. Is it fun? Definitely. Will you like it? I think you might. Will it kill you to try it? I seriously doubt it.
The DVD has only Spanish subtitles which was a drawback for me. I like to watch movies late at night and I use the subtitles to help keep the noise down. It is letter-boxed. It has a commentary track, and a not-very-special behind the scene featurette showing some of the spider manufacturing process. (Piper also does his own stop motion work.)
Written and Directed--Brett Piper Special FX--Brett Piper Cast: Rob Monkiewicz, Irene Joseph, David Bunce, Dan Merriman, James Aspden, Bevin McGraw, Alexxus Young