Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Cinema File #7: "Arachnoquake" Review

In my Dungeons and Dragons review, I worried that my ability to regard a movie as legitimately bad may not be working properly, so, as an experiment, I decided to watch a movie that's been in my queue for a while now that I've been deliberately trying to avoid, the SyFy Channel Original Movie Arachnoquake. Yeah, I think I'm going to be fine.

I don't know how far I want to go with this, because at some point, it's like picking on a retarded kid. Do I have to say that Arachnoquake is a bad movie? Do I need to bother saying, "do not ever see this?" Was anyone planning to see Arachnoquake, but was just waiting for a few reviews to figure out if it's worth a watch? Probably not. Anybody whose going to see this movie probably already has or will see it, because for some reason, they're into this sort of thing. And I'm not even judging by the way. There are a lot of different kinds of movies that I love that most people think are really stupid (I actually do a whole series on this). I try to be understanding when it comes to matters of taste, even if, in this case, I can't possibly conceive of the market or the audience for this movie or movies like it. I actually want to meet the person who was not only excited by the prospect of this movie, but then also came away satisfied with the result. I want to know what makes them tick, what they see in movies that I don't, and just generally where they're coming from. Because for the life of me, I don't get it.

Arachnoquake is supposedly about a series of earthquakes that, as one might expect from the title, release a horde of subterranean spiders onto an unsuspecting Louisiana populace. I say supposedly, because looking back on it, I'm fairly certain you don't actually see any earthquakes in the entire movie. They are mentioned, and we see a bunch of giant holes in the ground where the spiders emerge from, but you'd think if you were going to put Quake in the title, you'd actually, you know, have one. I can't imagine it's a budget thing, because all you'd have to do was shake the camera around, and its not like they didn't have a CGI budget if need be. Also, the spiders aren't really spiders. I mean, I guess they are, but for some reason they're pink. I've never seen a pink spider, and I kind of have to marvel at the aesthetic decision here. When constructing a monster that is supposed to be threatening, what do you think is the one color you don't ever want to use. It never comes up as a plot point, why they are pink, and they could have just as easily been black or red, or anything but the color of Princess fucking Peach (who, strangely now that I think about it, is not peach colored). Oh, and they breathe fire, because apparently anything that evolves underground will adapt to the gases and learn to spit flames. And we only learn this half way through the movie, as if they just added it because they couldn't think of more ways for a spider to attack people. So there you have Arachnoquake, minus the Arachnids and the Earthquakes. Fuck me.

Our story follows a tour bus driver and his group of frightened tourists, including no one you know or care about save possibly Growing Pains' Tracy Gold, as well as a subplot involving Edward Furlong and a bunch of cheerleaders. I want to say that the Furlong/cheerleader subplot adds nothing to the film, but that would imply that anything in the film adds anything to the film, and I wouldn't want to get your hopes up. Still, the main theme, such as it is, seems to be about taking responsibility, following a perennial screw up whose forced to step up and be a man when things go crazy, eventually coming out the other side as a hero. And I mean that literally, as at one point he is eaten and shat out by a giant spider. Oh, sorry, spoilers I guess, cause that fucking matters here. It's not like the main character is ever that likable. Really none of the characters are, but if I had to rank them, I notice that the characters I enjoy most, save one, all seem to be the first ones killed off. Again, enjoyment when spoken of in the context of Arachnoquake is all relative.

I think it's fitting that the one good thing I can say about Arachnoquake is also its biggest indictment, namely that the most interesting character in the movie, the one character who comes off as competent and interesting even in the slightest, bare minimum capacity, is played by goddamned Ethan Phillips. If you don't know who Ethan Phillips is, he's probably best known for playing the character of Neelix on Star Trek Voyager. If any one character all but killed the Star Trek TV franchise, it was that hairy motherfucker, and as I'm watching the same guy show up in Arachnoquake, I find myself clinging to his sole good performance for dear life to maintain my sanity. He had probably the only genuinely funny line in the entire movie, though I'm not sure if it was intentionally meant to be funny or not, and if he had been the protagonist instead of the douche bag we got, it might have actually been half way decent. Congratulations Syfy, you put fucking Neelix in your movie, and found a way to make him the best part of it! And by the way, has Edward Furlong always sucked this bad? This is the first thing I've seen him in since that godawful Crow sequel he did, but wasn't there a time when he was an okay actor? Are my memories of Brainscan faulty in this regard? And he just looks so sad and broken down in this movie; the guy looks like he's pushing 50 even though he's only in his 30's, and yet I still can't buy him as an adult. It's like as an actor he's Benjamin Buttoning, without the part where he actually gets younger.

If you want to see a better movie set in the Louisiana bayou, I would recommend the other movie I saw this week that coincidentally is also set there, Julia X. Not that that one was even very good, but compared to Arachnoquake, it was a masterpiece from beginning to end. Though I happen to notice that in both of them, no one actually speaks in a Cajun accent. It's possible that in real life, most people from there don't and my image of the region is colored by cliches in movies, but I found it strange. Still, in the case of Arachnoquake, it's not like I can say it took me out of the movie or anything, because that would presuppose that I was ever engaged in any way to begin with. Now that I think about it, given the setting, how much better would this movie have been if they introduced voodoo into it? Either make the voodoo the cause of the spiders, or better yet, make it the means by which the citizens fight back. Voodoo Bokor vs. Giant Spider. That would have been a movie.
Okay, I really shouldn't start trying to think of ways this movie could have been better. I'll be here all day. Just...find something better to do with your time.
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