Judge Patrick Naugle had a hit song in the early '90s called "Spider on My Crotch."
They really get under your skin.
Anyone who knows me even remotely bears witness to the fact that I hate spiders with the passion of a thousand suns. Actually, hate may not be a strong enough word; if I could wipe nature's eight-legged mistakes from the face of the earth, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Hollywood loves people like me, which is why the keep making giant mutant arachnid movies like Camel Spiders, crawling from the depths of darkness to become available on Blu-ray care of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
While on tour in the Middle East, a group of US military soldiers find themselves in the fight of their lives against insurgents and terrifyingly oversized arachnids that are both aggressive and deadly (which isn't true in real life but, you know, it's the movies so they've taken some liberties). When the tough-as-nails Captain (Brian Krause, Charmed) inadvertently ships home a few of the deadly creatures to America inside the body bag of a deceased solider, a small town sheriff (C. Thomas Howell, Side Out) and a group of terrified locals must band together before becoming one large smorgasbord for the horror known as Camel Spiders!
Never one to miss an opportunity to exploit the latest fad, legendary B-move producer Roger Corman (the driving force behind such classics as Piranha and Little Shop of Horrors) has turned his sights to the email almost all of us received from a friend of a friend: A picture of soldiers in Afghanistan holding what appears to be the largest spider ever caught on film (seriously, it looked like the equivalent of whatever kind of pet the devil owns). For those of us who hate spiders, this was yet another reason never to leave our hermetically sealed bubble we call home.
Running with this idea of behemoth monsters and overseas soldiers, Camel Spiders (a title straight and to the point) is a giant bug movie with a budget equivalent to whatever Michael Bay paid to rent port-o-potties for one weekend of shooting on Transformers: Dark of the Moon. In other words, those sitting down to absorb this experience can expect chintzy effects, an underwhelming story, and barely passable performances. Hey, it's a Roger Corman film. What did you expect?
Reviewing a movie like Camel Spiders takes a bit of an adjustment on the part of the film critic. You simply can't compare it to something like Citizen Kane or Saving Private Ryan; those movies don't even operate on the same plane of existence as Camel Spiders. Instead, you have to look at a movie like this through the same prism as The Beastmaster or Hell Comes to Frogtown. Obviously, the bar is set pretty low.
Camel Spiders is wall-to-wall spider attacks, usually consisting of spiders taking a flying leap into the face of their intended victim and blood spurting all over the place. Sometimes they drop from trees. Sometimes they drag their victims into the desert. Hey, they're spiders. Unless they arrive spaceships, there's not a lot they can do to surprise audiences anymore.
The movie's biggest fault lies in a story that becomes repetitive and boring very quickly. The characters spend an inordinate amount of time running, screaming, shooting, and driving to seemingly nowhere (except the end of the movie). The stakes are never high enough for the viewer to care, and by the one hour mark I was ready for either an atom bomb to wipe out the entire town or for the spiders to force us to accept them as our new insect overlords. Neither came to pass, making Camel Spiders a long and arduous process to get through.
What almost everyone reading this review really wants to know is, "How good do these CGI spiders look?" The answer, sadly, is not very good at all. There are a moments then the VFX team makes them look above passing, but those moments are few and far between. These creatures are clearly not operating in the same reality as the actors, and it shows…in painful ways. The spiders switch from looking tiny to looking huge, as if the CG artists were never sure how to gauge perspective from frame to frame.
The real actors aren't much better than their animated counterparts. Each performer spends their time reciting dialogue that isn't very interesting ("Spiders!" "Run!" "Jump!") and flailing around on the ground as they get devoured. The most prominent face here is C. Thomas Howell, who appears to have aged about 40 years, now grizzled and haggard with a thick bush-league moustache. This whole experience would have been a lot more interesting if he'd have taken tanning pills like in Soul Man, but no one ever listens to me.
Presented in a decent 1.78:1/1080p high definition, Camel Spiders (Blu-ray) looks look a straight-to-DVD transfer. Andrea V. Rossotto's cinematography is flat and uninspired, its colors solidly rendered and image very clear, but who cares? There isn't much happening on screen that holds our interest. The TrueHD 5.1 track utilizes the surround often, most prominently during the spider attacks, but it's a pretty vanilla mix. There are not alternate language tracks but we do get English and Spanish subtitles. There are no bonus features.
If you're in the mood for a high quality monster movie, you won't find it in Camel Spiders. Then again, I have a sneaking suspicion filmmakers Jim Wynorski (The Witches of Breastwick) and J. Brad Wilke knew that from the start. This one works only at 2:30 AM when you're so drunk your teeth are floating in vodka.
Dime store effects and bad acting. Exactly what you expect from Roger Corman.
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