In her best Beavis and Butthead voice, Judge Alice Nelson chuckles every time she says, "Spiderhole, huhhh huhh huh huhhh huhh huh."
Be careful where you decide to squat.
Horror movies tend to follow the same old formula: idiots put themselves in harms way and then systematically get killed by a deranged maniac, either human or at least a reasonable facsimile of one. Still, I love to watch these films and the thrills I get from being scared…even though I can sometimes predict ten minutes into the thing who the killer is. Spiderhole really doesn't do anything new for the genre, but it's filled with enough suspense and chills to entertain.
Facts of the Case
Molly (Emma Griffiths Malin, The Hole), Zoe (Amy Noble), Toby (George Maguire), and Luke (Reuben-Henry Biggs, The Illusionist) are college students who claim squatters rights on an old home that appears to be abandoned. However, when the friends wake up one morning locked inside with no apparent way out, they have no idea what madman has made them his prisoner.
I wasn't expecting much from Spiderhole, so I was surprised to find myself engaged in this story right from the start. It takes place in London during a weekend where four slackers decide to look for their dream home; one they don't have to pay for. They are going to game the system by squatting on someone else's property, get themselves entrenched, and voila, the law is on their side to remain there indefinitely. As head loser Toby gleefully states, "It's unlawful, but not illegal." And yes, after that statement, I began to root for his immediate demise. Once in the home, depending on your point of view, they are either victims of a madman or getting their just desserts. I'm still torn as to which side I come down on. While none of these characters are particularly likable, each actor manages to convey just enough sympathy to convince you they don't deserve this fate.
Spiderhole is at its best when writer/director Daniel Simpson battles past the conventions and focuses on the four trapped friends. What follows are random and often unpredictable events that are at times surprising and even jarring. In a scene where the fab four find their freedom is only a few feet away (try saying that five times fast), they discover the windows are covered with some kind of sound proof sheeting and only a small hole with which to view the outside world. While they bang uselessly on this sheeting, the doors in the room close and a gas is released, knocking everyone out. Whoa! Didn't see that coming. When they wake, one of them is missing, beginning a dangerous cat and mouse game between the killer and the coeds. Some of these encounters caused me to jump a few times, even though I should've known better.
There's a seemingly pointless subplot involving the disappearance of a young girl ten years prior, however it's cleverly tied into the main story line. At first you're not quite sure why it's introduced, but we eventually get a pretty satisfying payoff. Daniel Simpson should be proud of his feature film debut, presenting a fictionally plausible story in which we don't have to work too hard to suspend disbelief. Spiderhole is a far better film than the online reviews written by cry baby critics who want to see more blood to satisfy their sadistic side. Personally, I prefer the focus be more on the story (even if that story has a few holes) than highlight endless scenes of mutilation and slaughter.
Presented in standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the visuals are quite clear and, even though most of the film takes place in a dark and dreary location, it's easy to make out who's gonna get whacked. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix made it easy for me to hear the screams of the victims, when I had to cover my eyes during the few gory scenes. Bonus features include a unique behind-the-scenes featurette I found fascinating. There are virtually no talking head interviews from the cast or crew, and the whole thing feels like watching CSPAN. We also get the film's trailer.
Spiderhole is a good horror film, but not great. It takes on too many popular conventions of the genre which ultimately prevents it from standing out from the crowd. The DVD packaging compares the film to Saw and Hostel, which is not a particularly smart move and may be the reason critics have lashed out against it. Spiderhole may not set the horror world on fire, but it's an enjoyable thriller that guarantees a few well-placed scares.
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