Sony // 2002 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 3rd, 2002
Science made Quentin a mutant. Nature made him a killer.
On May 3rd the world will finally get to see one of the most popular comic book heroes come to life on the big screen in Sam Raimi's epic Spider-Man. To coincide (sort of) with the release of that film comes Columbia's horrific ordinary guy turned superhero turned rabid killer mutant spider flick Earth vs. the Spider! This is number two in a line of new "Creature Features" movies from special effects master Stan Winston (Jurassic Park III, Terminator 2: Judgment Day). The first in this series, She Creature, was about a beautiful mermaid who enjoyed singing her melodious songs, then proceeded to rip out people's spleens. In Earth vs. the Spider we get something along that lines (well, the ripping out of the spleen part at least...), only this time it stars Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters), Devon Gummersall (My So-Called Life) and Amelia Heinle (The Limey).
Mild mannered Quentin (Gummersall) is a comic book freak who lives in the big, bad city. Quentin works at a local genetics laboratory with his best buddy Nick (Mario Roccuzzo) as a security guard. One night while making the rounds some thugs break into the lab and kill his beloved friend. Distraught over his failure to save Nick and protect the building, Quentin injects himself with a powerful toxin that is made from some kind of super-resilient spider. At first, the toxin makes Quentin sick and scared, but soon Quentin learns that he's just like the hero from one of his favorite comic books! With the possibility to do good, save lives, and maybe woo his stunningly attractive next door neighbor (Heinle), Quentin takes to the streets to stop crime. But with great power comes great responsibility...and some deadly side effects like a hunger for human flesh! Soon Quentin starts to morph into something much more evil than he could have ever anticipated. With a local cop (Aykroyd) on his tail and some huge fangs protruding from his face, Quentin must figure out a way to keep his desires in check before he's swatted like a fly!
Earth vs. the Spider is based on a 1958 movie of the same name and was also produced by the late Lou Arkoff. Arkoff was notorious for making '50s schlock that epitomized the sci-fi horror genre of the day. These "Creature Feature" movies are all based on Arkoff's original concepts and films. Unfortunately, much like the first film in this series, the scope and story suffer from two main problems: too small a budget and not enough horror. In my review of She Creature, I said that I enjoyed the movie (a "pleasant surprise" were my exact words), but that the film didn't show enough of the creature. Almost the same can be said for Earth vs. the Spider. The movie plays much better than most straight-to-video horror movies and sequels (proof: Wishmaster 3: Beyond The Gates Of Hell, Hellraiser: Inferno and Reptilian were all terrible fare), but still suffers from not enough good stuff between the filler storyline. And let's face it, when you've got a movie about a killer mutant spider, everything else is pretty much filler. At the end of the film, the spider-creature is shown in all of his glory, but by then it feels like too little too late -- for most viewers they'll have already lost interest in the ensuing story.
This isn't to say that Earth vs. the Spider is a bad movie. On the contrary, it's got some really good things going for it. To start with there's the almost film noir atmosphere that shrouds the sets. Earth vs. the Spider sometimes even feels like a scaled down version of Gotham City. This is probably due in part to the comic book theme that runs through the film. The performances, especially by Devon Gummersall, are all fairly good -- well, at least better than this material deserves. Gummersall is best known for his portrayal of meek teenager Brain Krakow on the short-lived show My So-Called Life. Here he plays...well, a meek adult. I guess it's not that much of a stretch after all. For the life of me I can't figure out why Dan Aykroyd is in the film (his role is rather small in comparison, and it's not that interesting), though my guess is they needed the marquee-value name to sell the film. Amelia Heinle as the love interest works well, though she comes off as a second rate Denise Richards (and let's face it...Denise Richards isn't the actress you want as your comparison chart).
In retrospect, the movie isn't anything we haven't seen before -- the effects aren't earth-shattering, the story isn't very original (taking much of its inspiration from the 1930s classic The Invisible Man), and the spider creature just isn't on screen enough. I give praise for the filmmakers' efforts at attempting to make this movie something more than it ended up being. It may not have succeeded, but at least they tried.
Earth vs. the Spider is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Columbia's work on this transfer is certainly above average -- the color schemes all appear very bright and appealing while the black levels are fairly sharp and dark. However, I did notice an excessive amount of edge enhancement in a few areas, as well as a small amount of dirt and grain in the beginning of the film. Otherwise, this is a nice looking transfer for a straight-to-video title. Also included on this disc is a full screen version of the film.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and Dolby 2.0 Surround in French. I wasn't nearly as impressed with this 5.1 soundtrack as I was with the video presentation. While the dialogue, music, and effects are clear of any distortion or hiss, the mix as a whole feels very confined to the front and center speakers. A few directional effects showed up in a few areas, though otherwise this is a very subdued soundtrack. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Thai, Chinese, Korean, and Portuguese.
The extra features for Earth vs. the Spider are as thin an arachnid's web -- the biggest of the supplements is a very brief behind-the-scenes "making of" featurette that includes a few short interviews and footage from the production. Also included on this disc are a few photo galleries of concepts and drawings from the production ("Monster Sketches," "Building a Monster," "Behind-the-Scenes Photos," "Production Stills"), a few theatrical trailers for other "Creature Feature" movies and Columbia horror flicks, and a few short filmographies on Dan Aykroyd and Stan Winston.
All I can say is that I'm really looking forward to seeing Spider-Man. I have a sneaking suspicion it's going to be a lot better than Earth vs. the Spider. But, if you're in the mood for some low-budget fun, you could do a lot worse than this web of cheese.
Earth vs. the Spider is caught up in its own low-budget web to stand trial. Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* "Making Of" Featurette
* Five Trailers
* Photo Gallery
* Stan Winston Studios