WARNING! SPOILERS CONTAINED WITHIN! WARNING!
I love “Big Bug” movies. When I was a tyke in the 70s I relished the ones from the 50s like Them! (1954) Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957) and Earth Vs. The Spider (1958). As a general rule of thumb movies about marauding normal-sized insects or spiders don’t interest me, with the exception of Kingdom Of The Spiders (1977), and now this movie here! Primarily the spiders on display are normal-sized until the movie reaches its climax and we get a mutant, “queen” funnel web spider that’s roughly the size of a medium-sized dog. There’s a male, but his size is between normal and dog-sized. He’s not seen much, lurking in the shadows mostly and seemingly in control of the masses of “normals” pursuing the movie’s characters.
I heard about this movie many years ago when news hit the net a movie called, Nest, was in the making that concerned rampaging spiders. I didn’t realize until I watched the extras on the disc this film was written and directed by Kimble Rendall, the guy who did Bait (2012). He wanted to do something for the whole family with this one, and something that felt like a cross between Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Arachnophobia, which is what this feels like. It’s not a gory movie, more creepy, if you’re an actual arachnophobe, and with a vibe that feels it could be PG-13 rated.
Our hero, Jack Ridley (Kellan Lutz), who himself is an arachnophobe, doesn’t come into the picture right away. First we’re introduced to Kelsey Grammer’s Dr. Mason Kittridge, half co-owner of a pharmaceutical company called, BioTech. The other co-owner died many years ago in a plane crash. He had a son, Luke (Wu Chun) and a daughter, Jia (Li Bingbing). Luke works for Mason now, and Jai grew up to be a specialist in venomous creatures. Kittridge sent Luke on a mission with another, Ethan (Ryan Johnson); what they’re searching for isn’t fully revealed until much later in the movie, but I’m going to reveal it now. Mason is looking for the fountain of youth!
There was once this Emperor who lived to be 300 years old, and who got that away from this elixir he possessed. The movie has a small number of flashbacks, a couple chronicling where and how Luke and Ethan vanished, and a couple chronicling the Emperor. In the final act we learn the Emperor built his city underground and did some crude “genetic engineering” on some funnel web spiders, breeding them to be more vicious and more poisonous than the normal strain you find in Australia. But at some point the spiders took over the kingdom, killing everyone. It appears Luke and Mason found this Emperor and his city, and reason would have it his immortal-giving elixir, but no one banked on these “mutant” spiders to be in existence and a deadly obstacle.
It’s Luke and Ethan’s disappearance in the opening that spurs all these people together on a rescue mission into this underground world, while Grammer has ulterior motives for acquiring the elixir. The rest of the cast is made up of several other assistants Mason has in the field in West China: Milly Piper (Stef Dawson), Gary (Shane Jacobson)—the movie’s comic relief, and Chen Hu (Jason Chong). There are two hot chicks, Dawson and Binbing, and apparently the movie wasn’t big enough for the both of them. Dawson is the first one to buy the farm early on, taking a willing nose dive into a molten lava lake when she gets trapped and swarmed over by the spiders. I would have taken that dive too. Three other characters end up getting killed by the end of the movie, with Jacobson and Chong being killed off right at the end at the same time by the Queen. It’s not a gory moment, but a creepy one as both are struck by a web-strand shot by the Queen and yanked into a mass of spiders that drag them, squirming and hollering, under this statue. I’ll admit that scene gave me the willies.
Grammer turns out to be the human bad guy, and we see the beginnings of this when he’s bit early on; once everyone is gone, he pulls out his own anti-venom vial and doses himself, even though Milly has been bit three times and is slowly dying. His end comes by two crossbow arrows from a booby-trap deliberately tripped by Luke.
There’s a little girl they discover, well, about, maybe, twelve to fourteen actually, who they drag through this underground city, and who deranged Mason tells everyone is infested with spiders that he claims is how they’re following them. She’s one of the survivors, along with Ridley, Jai and Luke, but right before the final shot, she coughs a spider right into camera! Does that mean they all died, or just her? Spiders crawling over Grammer’s dead body is then the final shot.
I dug this movie, a good combination of action adventure, horror and well done spider CGI. The only dodgy CGI effect was a shot of a helicopter zooming from foreground to background, and I was surprised most of the sets were practical. In this day and age of moviemaking that’s rare.
Gravitas Ventures is in charge of this Australian-China movie here in the U.S. releasing it on BD-R and DVD-R on April 24! You can buy them both on Amazon!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.39:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English subs only
Extras included . . .
- Cast & Crew Featurette (12:07)
- Making Of Featurette (8:50)
- Interview With The Director (14:45)
- Cast & Crew Interviews (42:17)