by Joe Steiff
Spiders and babes go wild on this new monster flick available from MTI Home Video.
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If you didn’t get enough of Arachnophobia or Eight Legged Freaks to quench your fear (or love) of all things spider, then this film is for you. Written, directed, and special effected by apparently one-man crew Brett Piper (jack of all trades—well, you know how the rest of the saying goes), Arachnia is marketed as a throwback to the 50s monster movies in style if not quite content — I don’t remember nudity and lesbo action as part of 50s monster movies. So what we’ve got is a movie that wouldn’t have been shown as a B movie at that time but rather soft core porn. And I say, all the more reason to see it!
Okay, I’m being a bit facetious. And there is fun to be had here. Rob Monkiewicz as our hero, Sean, and Irene Joseph as our heroine, Chandra, show some promise—I’d see a film with either of these two again. Monkiewicz plays the requisite square jawed good looking guy who has to make the tough decisions, but instead of a sidekick, he has what appears to be an equal (in smarts and looks.) in Joseph, playing a black woman who defies the reliance on stereotypes we see elsewhere in the film. Though they make some of the typical bad decisions all characters in sci-fi/horror films are required to make, they make fewer of them, and they’re fun to watch. At times their performances seem a bit inconsistent, but overall, they do a good job with what they’ve got.
Bevin McGraw and Alexxus Young are clearly along for titillation, and one wonders if they flipped a coin to see who would bare her breasts, though it seems more likely that one of them simply refused. Of course, lesbian play doesn’t necessarily require bare breasts, so both have a little romp in their bed while everyone else is fearing for their lives. The film chugs along with a lecherous filmmaker, uh, I mean, professor and a small collection of slightly over-the-top but expected characters who, one by one, get eaten by giant spiders.
The special effects are probably the main reason this film is posed as an homage to 50s monster flicks—the main spider effects are stop action photography and the use of miniatures in some pretty transparent ways (if you’ve seen the film, you’ll get this little pun). Hard to say whether these were intentional or simply a product of resources, whether this link to 50s monster flicks is deliberate or savvy marketing. Either way, Brett Piper clearly loves horror films and has worked extensively in a variety of low-budget direct-to-video releases. Expect to see more films by him.
If you’re watching for thrills and terror, this isn’t the film for you. But if you love old 50s monster flicks or spiders in particular or simply want to see a film that’s the visual equivalent of a garage band, then rush out and buy this.
And let’s be honest, making films is expensive and hard work. Just getting a film made and in release is an accomplishment worth praising. And anyone who can work as much as Brett Piper does has got something going for him. Hopefully, Monkiewicz and especially Joseph will keep working and honing their craft. But in the meantime, Arachnia is a fun little snapshot of their careers in 2003.
Come to think of it, this film is a prime candidate for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. Which means that a lot of the fun could be in staging your own MST3K—invite your friends over, make sure there’s plenty of pop corn and have at it.
Joe Steiff teaches at Columbia College Chicago.
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