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E.C. McMullen Jr.
Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
We have an unusual rating system here at Feo Amante's Horror Movies. A movie gets rated from truly awful (one shriek girl) to must-see masterpiece (five shriek girls). But if a movie is really, really bad in that special way that only science fiction and horror movies can be, then we enter the realm of negative shriek girls. These ratings are of the so-bad-it's-good variety, the kind that are fun to watch because they're unintentionally funny.
But what if it is intentional? If a movie is actually trying for negative shriek girls, do I award positive shriek girls for a successful attempt? Can you do a good job at being bad on purpose?
"Hurt me," said the masochist. "No," said the sadist.
ARACHNIA is a very low budget movie written and directed by Brett Piper (A NYMPHOID BARBARIAN IN DINOSAUR HELL, THEY BITE, DRAINIAC, PSYCLOPS). It opens with a small plane flying at night. On board are Professor Mugford (David Bunce), his assistants Deke (Dan Merriman: PSYCLOPS) and Chandra (Irene Joseph: PSYCLOPS), students Kelly (Alexxus Young) and Trina (Bevin McGraw) and strapping pilot Sean (Rob Monkiewicz: PSYCLOPS). Mugford is a professor of paleontology and the group is on their way to a dig in Arizona.
This particular night there's a bad special effect meteor storm going on. Sean and Chandra watch the green meteors and have a pleasant conversation about all the foibles of their fellow passengers. Then a particularly bad special effect meteor becomes a meteorite and crashes to Earth. The impact is so tremendous that the shock wave knocks the plane from the sky.
Everyone survives the crash and we get our first taste of just how intentionally just-for-bad-laughs this movie is. Deke exists only for comedy relief, Sean and Chandra are the good, smart, competent ones, Professor Mugford is a stereotype snooty academic and Trina and Kelly exist only to whine, scream and provide gratuitous nudity.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. A gorgeous naked girl is a gorgeous naked girl. But it's also a choice, as in when your characters come across an abandoned farm house and their first priority is building a fire to heat some water so the girls can take a bath, you've deliberately entered negative shriek girl territory. And if you have any doubt about it being deliberate, all you have to do is watch this scene with the commentary on and listen to the director and cast joke about how ridiculous it is to take a bath at that moment. They knew what they were doing.
Which brings us to the monsters. As the title implies we're talking about spiders. Giant stop-motion spiders. Not to brag or anything, but one of the first things I did when I bought a digital video camera was make a stop motion short starring my keys and my cell phone and it was way scarier. I'm not commenting on director Brett Piper's talent (yet), just his intent. I present these truly terrible spider effects as more evidence that he was going for bad.
Speaking of bad, I think all this begs the question: "If the giant spider effects were so bad, what about the giant spider science?" That requires a
Check out the SCIENCE MOMENT page for more Science on other movies.
So what does all this mean? Is this a good bad movie or a bad attempt at a good movie? I believe the evidence supports my contention that they were trying for negative shriek girls. And for doing so I award them: two negative shriek girls, because even though it had its moments, it really wasn't all that good-bad."