Tibor Takacs has been making ISCFC-worthy movies his entire career. From 1987’s “The Gate” to 1997’s “Armageddon” (the Rutger Hauer / Mark Dacascos one) to 2013’s “Spiders”, he’s the guy you call if you have a movie with a weird premise and a low budget. Although we’ve only reviewed one, the fantastic “Mansquito”, he’ll be showing up again, and he’s behind one of my favourite SyFy Channel movies, “Ice Spiders”.
I want SyFy to be more like Roger Corman who, during his 60s heyday, would do stuff like write a script in a day if he suddenly got access to a cool set. I’d like to think something similar happened here, where SyFy were offered a ski resort and something that looked a bit like a military base for a weekend and knocked up a film with the first monster that came into their heads. The gist of this particular one…can you guess from the title?…is we have a group of teen skiing superstars going off to a resort for training; plus the owner of the resort (famed TV writer Stephen J Cannell, doing a spot of acting); his head trainer, former Olympic hopeful Dan “Dash” Dashiell (Patrick Muldoon) and the hot scientist from the local research place, Dr April Sommers (Vanessa Williams, 44 at the time and not looking a day over 25). It’s this lot up against the head scientist from the local research place, who’s been doing illicit experiments on some prehistoric spider DNA, and a bunch of gigantic spiders, who are fine in the snow and have got a taste for humans.
“Ice Spiders” manages to separate itself from its SyFy brethren in a number of ways. First up, the entire main cast can act so there’s no wasted time getting embarrassed on their behalf. The characters, by and large, behave in a sensible manner. And there’s a good sense of fun on display – the first reaction of the two hunters who die at the beginning of the movie isn’t to run, or get help, when they see a giant spider, but to try and kill it; Dash’s pathetic attempt to hit on April; and a truly magnificent mid-air death.
Although there’s a lull (only a small one) Takacs understands that you need to change things up a bit in the middle of a cheesy giant spider movie, so we get all sorts of different attacks, methods of defence, camera styles and perspectives. There’s a great scene where the teens are watching some of their friends try and make it to the school bus, at extreme distance, so their commentary runs over the footage of tiny figures trying to dodge spiders – not a world-beating scene, I admit, but visually unique in terms of the rest of the film. This is rare, is what I’m getting at.
There’s a fun final battle, some magnificent black-and-white morality at the end, and a decent satisfying coda. What more could you ask for (from a SyFy Channel original, about ice spiders)? It’s also got one of those odd credits that almost guarantees an interesting story – listed as “executive consultant” is Brian Trenchard-Smith, who we’ve covered with “Drive Hard”, but has a long and famous career in Ozploitation and in being one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourites. What did he consult on, I wonder?
Anyway, while it’s not perfect, it’s loads of fun, Muldoon is a great B-movie leading man (although he does come out with one too many lame sexist “jokes”), and you’ll have a great time if it’s on.
Rating: thumbs up