Movie Review: 'Arachnoquake'


The SyFy channel is having one hell of a June, and while their product might not be anyone's idea of "brilliant genre filmmaking," there simply aren't many horror flicks to choose from during the summer, which explains why the schlock-loving network has no less than four new movies this month. We've already covered Jersey Shore Shark Attack (very dumb, slightly amusing) and Piranhaconda (very dumb, mostly dull), which logically brings us to ... Arachnoquake. (Their fourth offering is simply called Bigfoot, which makes no sense to me. Why did they not call it Bigfootasaurus or Dinofoot?)

But back to the awesomely-titled Arachnoquake. It's broad, dumb, obvious, and (almost) entirely predictable. It's nothing more than yet another Saturday night cable TV time-filler, and it's quite possibly the silliest movie you'll see all month -- and yet, if you're a monster movie enthusiast (and I'm guessing you are), you may just find a few stray threads of relative amusement here. You won't get any new ideas or flashy effects, but you will get "the same old stuff" delivered with a slight-yet-evident sense of good humor. One suspects that, even with its painfully small budget, Arachnoquake was envisioned as a 1980s-era creature feature, combined with perhaps a few DNA strands that were borrowed from the disaster movie sub-genre.

The plot is nominal: an earthquake has unleashed a strain of giant white spiders that can breathe fire and scuttle around on water. With a gigantic budget, these monsters would be painful. In a cheap movie, meh, they're kind of fun to look at. The army of mutant arachnids overtake New Orleans, and the bulk of Arachnoquake is focused on a broad variety of survivors who manage to squash spiders, run like hell, and get stung to death with a reliable frequency. Some of the moments are fun, many are just dumb, but there seems to be an intentional tone of "light adventure" to Arachnoquake, as if these particular b-movie producers opted for a relatively chaste monster flick, instead of one in which a bunch of busty women bounce around in bikinis. That's not to say that the tone always works (some of the "jokes" are downright painful), but there's a playful vibe to the silliness, and the musical score in particular indicates fun rather than ferocious.

The effects are plainly basic but effective enough, and there's a strange sense of ambition to this cheaply-made movie. Much of the flick is just people running away from spiders, but occasionally there are moments of legitimate effort. (The finale in which the massive mama spider spins a web between two skyscrapers is the sort of stuff we watch "creature features" for, even the cheap ones.) Familiar faces include Tracey Gold (Family Ties), Edward Furlong (Terminator 2), and the always-cool (if usually anonymous) character actor Ethan Phillips, but the silly CG spiders are obviously the star of the show here. Arachnoquake is precisely the sort of movie you'd expect from a Saturday night on Syfy, and while it displays a typical laundry list of low-budget shortcomings, it also has a handful of legitimately fun (or at least funny) moments.

This is all strictly on the SyFy scale of film evaluation, of course. Nobody but the seasoned SyFy veterans, or very young horror freaks, should consider this a full-bore recommendation of Arachnoquake. (Also there wasn't much quaking at all. What a rip-off.)