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Lions Gate presents
Mercer: I hate spiders.
DVD ReviewArachnid is pure B-movie horror stock, and would have been perfectly at home during the time of the giant bug epics of the late 1950s. There is little in the way of any substantive storyline, but director Jack Sholder, who helmed the cult classics The Hidden and Alone in the Dark, does his best to deliver a campy, if predictable, low-budget giant spider flick.
Aside from being highly illogical at times, the Mark Sevi screenplay is a little loose on specifics; I'm not sure if that was intentional, or just plain sloppy. The opening sequence sets up the plot when an Air Force fighter pilot tries to shoot down what appears to some type of alien spacecraft over an island in the South Pacific. We see his unfortunate demise, after he ejects and parachutes onto the island, at the maw (or is that mandible?) of some over-sized alien spider hybrid.
Ten months later, a mixed bag of scientists, a couple of marines, a few native islanders and one cocky female pilot are sent on a secret mission to the very same island to investigate a mysterious outbreak. Their mission is put in jeopardy at the outset when their plane crash lands on the island, amidst some mysterious electrical disturbances, and of course this leaves us with a healthy set of potential victims, with plenty of ammo for the weird alien spider creatures that lurk in the jungle.
Mercer (Alex Reid) is the tough female pilot, and she is Arachnid's Lara Croft caricature (check out the DVD cover art), complete with shorts and a tank top; by the film's climax, she is wielding M-16s and flipping off of cave walls just like our favorite Tomb Raider. She has the requisite love/hate relationship with pretty boy marine leader Valentine (Chris Potter), a guy with all the charisma of a damp sock. The other primary victims, I mean characters, include the curmudgeonly Dr. Leon (Jose Sancho), his busty assistant Suzy (Neus Asensi), nerdy bug expert Dr. Capri (Ravil Isaynov) and hulking marine Bear (Rocqueford Allen).
Sholder relies mostly on what appear to be animatronic spiders (though there are a few less than memorable CG moments), and for the most part they look understandably tacky. There are plenty of long, sharp insect legs jabbing at people, and close-ups of undulating mandibles drooling some kind of acidy spider juice into character's eyes. A lot of the action takes place in broad daylight, oddly enough, and this only makes some of the giant bug effects look that much more phony. The scenes at night, or in the caverns, look a little less puppet-like, and not as distracting.
For laughs, there are more than a couple of Predator-influenced moments in Arachnid, from the Bill Duke-inspired character of Bear, to the aliens shimmery invisibility, to the abundance of scenes featuring automatic weapons being fired wantonly into the jungle.
There is really no new ground broken here, creatively, and this film moves along safe and well-worn paths familiar to any fans of the genre.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: The DVD case only indicates that Arachnid is "widescreen", though it appears to be a 1.66:1 transfer. Anamorphic? Unlikely. Regardless, it's a pretty respectable transfer, considering its low-budget roots, with a bright color field that looks best in the bright daylight jungle sequences. Some of the interior shots lose a bit of image detail and show some fine grain, but not enough to beef about.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Why is it that a lot of low-budget films often have really active 5.1 audio transfers, and bigger, commercial releases don't? I don't have the answer to that question, but the 5.1 track on this disc, while not reference quality, utilizes the rears often (especially during the opening fighter pilot sequence), and gives a nice lift to the soundstage. The gunfire doesn't have the deep thump you might have come to expect, and tends to sound like cap guns much of the time. I hate to see those rear speakers hanging on the wall doing nothing, and I can forsake the occasional lack of substantial bass in favor of an active 5.1 mix from time to time.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Extras Review: The DVD cover indicates the presence of a trailer, but it is nowhere to be found.24 chapters and subtitles (English and Spanish) are all that's here.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsThis film tries to mix elements from Tomb Raider and Predator, only made on a microcosmic budget. Quite simply, Arachnid is just a low-budget giant spider movie with semi-stiff acting and mediocre effects.
If you like 'em campy, however, then crack open a cold one and enjoy.
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