by Jason Coffman
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In a lot of ways, it’s a good time to be a horror fan. Interesting genre films now regularly make their way from all over the world to the States thanks to distributors like IFC Midnight, who are willing to take a chance on genre films that other companies may take a pass on. One of their more recent acquisitions is Spiderhole, a nasty little thriller from the UK.
Molly (Emma Griffiths Malin) is introduced uncomfortably sitting in a waiting room at a hospital. She’s a little freaked out, as she has a problem with waiting rooms, but luckily for her it seems all she has wrong is some particularly bad heartburn. She leaves the hospital and meets up with three of her art-school friends: unpredictable Zoe (Amy Noble), ringleader Toby (George Maguire) and nice guy Luke (Reuben-Henry Biggs). The four have decided to find an abandoned house and squat in it to save money on rent, and so they can have crazy parties whenever they want, not necessarily in that order of importance. After driving around London for hours, they finally find the perfect place.
Which translates, in squatter terms, to a terrifying mansion that looks like a long-neglected crime scene. They break in and poke around a bit, and it does seem like just what they’re looking for. It’s huge and empty, with electrical hookups and water still working. Not so desirable, though, is the fact that Zoe stumbles upon a closet stuffed with bloody clothes. Toby tries to calm everyone down and manages to talk them into sleeping on it, and heading out in the morning if they still want to. This plan is complicated when they wake up to find they have been welded into the house— metal slabs have replaced the doors and windows, and it quickly becomes clear that they are not leaving any time soon.
Spiderhole bears some resemblance, plot-wise, to another recent import, Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s Cold Sweat. Both films feature people trapped in a house by cruel villains, but Spiderhole is much more coy with its “monsters.” In fact, for most of the film’s running time, it is not entirely clear whether Molly and her friends are facing off against a human or something more supernatural. This adds a bit of mystery to Spiderhole, but instead of explaining the villain’s motives (one of the more interesting facets of Cold Sweat), Spiderhole leaves many questions open to audience interpretation.
This is not a bad way to end things, considering how slight everything is that comes before Spiderhole’s jarringly abrupt finale. At a slim 80 minutes, Spiderhole doesn’t spend too much time with any of the other characters but Molly, and so it’s tough to muster much concern for them. Especially given how they make terrible decisions from the outset; it is truly as though none of them have watched a horror film before. Even so, Spiderhole manages to create an impressively dingy atmosphere and some effective shock scenes, although many horror fans will be left wanting something a little more substantial.
Spiderhole is available to watch now on Netflix Instant. IFC Films will release Spiderhole on DVD on 31 January 2012. Special features include a trailer and behind-the-scenes featurette.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and is a regular contributor to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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