Arachnid (2001)

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Released 5-Dec-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Production Notes
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 91:33
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jack Sholder
Studio
Distributor

Imagine Entertainment
Starring Alex Reid
Chris Potter
Pepe Sancho
Ravil Isyanov
José Sancho
Case Click
RPI ? Music Francesc Gener


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

"It's coming from another world...TO STAY"

    During a reconnaissance flight investigating a mysterious stealth aircraft, an Air Force fighter collides with the strange flying object causing both to be destroyed. But there are survivors...from both the plane and the UFO, and these land on a remote Pacific island. While the fighter pilot investigates the wreckage of the other craft, he comes upon something shocking, but he doesn't have any time to respond to what he sees.

    One month later, and islanders are being hospitalized on the island of Guam for spider bites that correspond to nothing the medical staff have on record. The only way to fight off the infections caused by the bites is to capture the offending bug and bring it back to the medical facilities for evaluation. Dr. Samuel Leon (José Sancho) has gathered a group of doctors, scientists and armed bodyguards for protection. The only thing that the group doesn't have is a pilot to fly them to the suspect island and this position is filled by ex-navy flyer Mercer (Alex Reid) who is willing to fly just about anywhere. All seems normal as the group fly to the remote island and prepare to land, but as they near the island the plane's engines cut out and Mercer is forced to crash land on the island's beach. With things not quite going according to plan, the team clash as to who is at fault. This is all soon forgotten as they also discover that whatever magnetic force caused their plane to lose power also is preventing their satellite phones and communication equipment from working and now, with no contact with the outside world, the group must investigate the island to find the cause of the disturbance and perhaps a way to contact help.

    They are not long on the island before they begin to see things that are not quite right. Mutant organisms, some half reptile, half arachnid, are populating the island. More and more strange variations are coming out of the jungle. And as the group begins to suffer attack after attack from these mutant creatures, they realize that their only chance of survival is either escape from the island or face the source of the mutants, a huge arachnid unlike anything earth has seen before.

    If there is one thing that I really hate, it's spiders. I'm not quite sure why, but they have an incapacitating effect on me and it's all I can do to get away from them ASAP. There are millions around the world who'd agree with me. Perhaps it's the eight legs, or maybe the 6 eyes or the fact that there might be one on the ceiling above you right now and if you look up, they'll fall on your face, fangs out...dripping with venom. You know what I mean. Perhaps it's not so dramatic as all that, but many will know the feeling in seeing a huntsman the size of your hand crawl across your windscreen while you're driving and the only thing that comes into your mind is whether it's on the outside of the windscreen...or the inside. It's even been postulated that there may be an extra-terrestrial origin for arachnids and man's continual fear of them is in fact genetic memory where we instinctively know that these creatures are an outside threat. I know, out there. Maybe it's this almost genetic fear of spiders that makes films about giant spiders so popular.

     Over the years, we've had many films in the giant spider threat genre such as Earth vs the Spider in 1958, The Giant Spider Invasion in 1975, Kingdom of the Spiders in 1977 (okay, so this isn't exactly 'giant spiders' but the sheer volume make up for size), Arachnophobia (still big enough for me) in 1990 and more recently Eight Legged Freaks. And now here comes another in a veritable cornucopia of giant spider flicks, Arachnid. This film goes along with the extra-terrestrial origin of the gargantuan creepy crawly that inhabits the proceedings here and while it provides more than the occasional jump of fright, there is quite a bit that lets this film down overall.

    This film is a Spanish production and this is evident by the abundance of Spanish names in the cast and crew. Spain (along with Australia) is becoming something of an alternative location for motion picture productions because of availability of qualified film crews and actors and lower production costs. Because of the filming location, we have quite a few Spanish actors populating this film, which in itself isn't a bad thing. The performances are average with the main cast consisting of unknowns. Alex Reid as the pilot Mercer, and Chris Potter as the head of security, Valentine, serve as our leads and they do a reasonable but in the end unremarkable job. There is meant to be the usual sexual tension between the two, but this type of plot device has become so standard and expected as to become a joke. You have to really develop a character to make this device work and this hasn't been done here. All the other characters serve their purposes with the usual collection of people to populate the film and feed the monster. There are the gung-ho ex military bodyguards, the bookish spider expert, the doctor and his attractive assistant and their native guides. You know they are all going to go one by one, so we get nothing original here.

    Probably the worst thing about this film is its unconvincing special effects. In a world of CG effects that have one wondering how the hell they did it, this film relies on some fairly ordinary stop-motion animation and some fairly dodgy CG work. Of course this is all due to whatever budget limitations this production had, but this is no excuse for unconvincing 'special' effects. It might have been better not to show the creature at all rather than to show us what they came up with. The creepy atmosphere that pervades this film is completely washed away at the first sight of our main nemesis that had me thinking aloud 'Is that it!?!'. Yes, folks, that is indeed it.

    If you are in the mood for some eight legged action, then I might suggest Eight Legged Freaks over this affair that seems to be a distant cousin, twice removed. Not quite up to scratch.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    We have a fairly ordinary transfer here with some problems commonly seen with direct-to-video titles.

    This film is presented in the 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced aspect ratio, which is a common variant of 1.85:1. While I couldn't find any concrete evidence of this film's original theatrical aspect ratio, I think it'd be safe to assume that it was 1.85:1.

    For the most part, the image seen here is watchable, but we do have the occasional problem with focus such as that seen at 35:26 where the image is quite unclear. Shadow detail is reasonable with much of the the film's proceedings taking place either at night or in darkened areas. I didn't find low level noise to be a problem.

    Colour use during the feature, and its commitment to disc, is fairly natural with the picture displaying a wide range of vivid colours.

    There are quite a few MPEG artefacts. These range from pixilization to outright macroblocking as evidenced at 49:45. There is also some issues with motion such as when the camera pans from side to side. At times this leads to some portions of the image (usually white or light in colour/shade) not in total sync with the rest of the image. This leads the light portions of the image jittering from side to side as the camera shot pans from left to right and vice versa, and is possibly MPEG motion compensation gone wrong . A quite distracting artefact that at times drew my attention away from the film. Even edge enhancement is afraid of spiders and is not nearly as prevalent as I would have expected. Still, it is visible from time to time such as at 12:01. The print used for this transfer is quite clean and film artefacts were quite seldom on screen.

     There are no subtitles available on this disc.

     This disc is formatted single layer and therefore, layer change is not an issue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio for this title is fair but lacks any sort of punch and dynamic that would set it apart. Quite like the film, actually.

    There is one audio option with this title, that being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded mix.

    I found the dialogue quality of this title to be quite ordinary, with some of the dialogue not totally understandable at times. This was doubly compounded by the lack of subtitles. At times the dialogue is muddled and difficult to understand and the sometimes heavy Spanish accents don't help proceedings.

    The audio sync quality on this disc is, like the dialogue, quite ordinary. Although this film was originally shot in English, I rechecked several times as I got the impression that we were watching an English dub of a Spanish film. This isn't the case, as it's the production company's desire to produce films in English for a world-wide market. Still, the sync looks out and to a sometimes distracting level. A prime example of this can be seen/heard at 8:20-8:27.

    Music for this film was composed by Francesc Gener and while the score works for this film, I didn't find it to be overly memorable. There was music during the film, I just can't remember what any of it sounded like.

    This disc presents the audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded, so we do have some activity in the rears, just not very much. For most of the film the rear channels are resigned to contributing atmospheric audio and never draw attention to themselves.

    As is the case with the rears, so it is with the subwoofer that backs up the front channels in the LFE department, but never to a major extent and for the most part the subwoofer takes a minor supporting role.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    We get a few extras here, mostly consisting of text production notes.

    After the usual copyright warnings and distributor's logos, we are taken to an animated menu that offers us the following:

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced and apart from the main menu, silent.

    Selecting the Explore Extras option presents us with the following:

Theatrical Trailer - 2:19

    This is the standard theatrical trailer that one would expect from such a film. Unusual for such a film, the trailer offers us an unobstructed view of the creature while most films would only hint at its final appearance and save the thrills for those committing themselves to watching the film in its entirety. Or perhaps they thought that they'd get the whole thing out in the open so when you do end up watching the film, you aren't too disappointed in what ends up being the film's main villain; a hokey animatronic, stop motion, dodgy CG critter that wobbles more than moves. It is presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded.

Production Notes

    This feature takes you to another menu offering up:

Producer - Brian Yuzna - 2 Pages

    This text feature details the filmmaking life of the film's producer Brian Yuzna who is responsible for some popular and well regarded films such as Re-Animator in 1985, Warlock  in 1989 and Crying Freeman in 1995. He is also the producer of Beyond Re-Animator which is due later this year.

Director - Jack Sholder  - 2 Pages

    Jack Sholder has been in pictures for quite a long time and since the mid 80's has been the director for many well-known films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 2:  Freddy's Revenge in 1985, The Hidden in 1987 as well as an attempt to direct the seemingly unfilmable Supernova in 2000.

Production Company - Filmax and Fantastic Factory - 3 Pages

    This details the history of production companies Filmax and its division Fantastic Factory which is responsible for Arachnid as well as the Brian Yuzna directed Faust in 2000,  Darkness which stars Anna Paquin in 2002, and the upcoming Beyond Re-Animator. Fantastic Factory has been created to produce films such as Arachnid in Spain for a world-wide audience. Fantastic.

Special Effects - Steve Johnson - 1 Page

    Special effects man Steve Johnson has worked on a very large catalogue of titles ranging from John Carpenter's The Fog in 1980, Videodrome in 1983, Big Trouble in Little China in 1986 and more recently Blade II. It's sad to see that such talent didn't translate on screen.

Photo Gallery - 20 Images

    This is a collection of pictures from the feature as well as some behind the scenes shots. These are centred mid screen with the Main Menu foliage bordering the images. Of limited value, as the shots are fairly small and feature no text. The behind the scenes shots are few in number.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title has been released in Region 1 with content similar to what we have here. However, our Region 1 cousins do get a couple of things we here in Region 4 don't.

    The Region 4 disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on:     Although it looks as if Region 1 misses out on some text notes (to be confirmed), we really miss out in the audio department with the R1 disc getting a 5.1 mix. Depending on the audio/visual system you have, this one is really up to each individual viewer. In the end our friends in Region 1 do get the better deal in the sound stakes, but you tell me if you really want to spend US$25 on this disc. Your call.

Summary

    Here we have some fairly ordinary giant spider action in a film that fails to deliver a total experience. We do get some good creepiness at the start, but a lack of adequate characterization and some pretty ordinary special effects hamper what might have been an interesting film. Rent or buy Eight Legged Freaks instead.

    The video is fairly ordinary with some MPEG artefacts visible throughout.

    The audio works, but suffers from some muddled dialogue and sync problems. Region 4 misses out on a 5.1 mix afforded the Region 1 disc.

    The extras are mostly text-based and cover the producer, director and production company that made this film possible.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Tuesday, February 04, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RA-61, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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