Spider review by The Grim Ringler

David Cronenberg is definitely in one of those rare directors that defies an easy description. Not really a horror director but far from your mainstream-joe, Cronenberg has created his own niche with his film that never seem to really lend themselves to any genre labels. Working on the fringe of Hollywood but always managing to attract stellar casts to his projects, Cronenberg is one of the few true auteurs left in film today and is a director that not only has his own filmic geekism (Cronenbergian filmmaking) but whom is as swell an actor as he is a director. With Spider Cronenberg has returned to the dark psychological thriller roots that lead to such critical acclaim with Dead Ringers, alas though, the results arent quite as gripping.

Spider (played wonderfully by Ralph Fiennes) is a man nearing middle age but that seems to have the mentality of a child at the dawn of his teenage years, his life having been spent confined in an institution since he was but a child. After half a lifetime though he has finally been released to a halfway house and will finally have a chance to see what the real world is like. The home he is to stay in though feels more like another institution than a home, the people there as fractured as Spider is, all of them suspicious of their caretaker (Lynn Redgrave) who herself watches all her patients with a weary eye. As Spider acclimates to his new surroundings though he begins on a dark journey through is past, making illegible notes of gibberish as he re-lives the weeks, days, and hours that lead to his being institutionalized. As we learn about his past though it become readily apparent that all is not as it seems, his sense of reality slowly twisting as he relives it, re-casting people in his life, making his father into a murderer and bastard, his mother into a saint, until nothing we see through him can be trusted. And slowly Spider begins to revert back to what lead to his institutionalization in the first place as he builds himself a web in his room and suddenly his caretaker has become his mother and reality is slipping slowly away for him again. And when the truth of what lead to his institutional stay is revealed we are left to but watch as he plays out his dark passion play.

I really and truly wish I could say that Spider is good but, well, it isnt. What it is is mediocre. As mediocre as they come. Which, sadly, has been a trait of Cronenbergs most recent films. Spider is a very far cry from a bad film as its very well acted and is ably directed but it all leads to naught. Its a psychological thriller with no thrills. The ending just happens instead of unfolding, and when it happens its just oh And god thats frustrating. It is his film though and feels that way throughout as he creates a very dark, claustrophobic world where everyone is damaged and nothing seems safe and sane. But its also a boring world that plods along and never really builds any suspense of tension. The film is, to be fair, a psychological study on madness, and as such it can be very effective, but it just doesnt jell. Its like a joke with no punch line. Maybe its me, maybe I have seen to many Hannibal Lecter movies where the madman must go out and kill and the like but not once did I feel like Spider was a scary person or even a terribly sympathetic one, just one that went mad and never found his way back. And sadly, as well crafted and well made as the film may be, it just never makes the viewer feel anything. Which is where a film like May is much more effective. Sure, its much more over the top, comparably, and is much more broad, but it is also much darker and tells a better narrative.

Spider does feature a very good image and a good, though very low-key sound, so dont get all hyped for some surround sound assault. As for extras, you get a commentary, three featurettes, and the usual trailers and such (though, the trailer choices on these discs just makes you scratch your head to be sure) and, well, this is embarrassing, I gotta be honest I watched a borrowed version of Spider and I never really checked the extras. I was that disinterested. I know, bad reviewer, bad!

I love David Cronenberg, I think he is a great director and has a brilliantly dark vision but just never really nails Spider. Its not a bad film at all, and has its moments, but the film never truly engages the audience and never seems to go anywhere, leaving us, in the end, frightfully indifferent as to what happened. Worth a look for the fan, but not much here to appeal to the masses. What a shame.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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