Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Icy May ( & SyFy vs. The Mynd): Ice Spiders (2007)

We agents of M.O.S.S. defy your oppressive assumptions about seasons in the northern hemisphere. To prove you (yes you!) wrong, May will be all about ice, snow and everything cold for us. Everything is better in winter, after all. And what is more typical of the cold months of the year than spiders?

Panic in a small ski resort in the mountains of Utah. The neighbouring secret government lab experimenting on helpless spiders with gene grafts from their ancestors has hit a spot of bother, and now half a dozen hungry giant spiders on steroids (not a metaphor) are roaming the mountain looking for food, which is to say, ski resort vacationers.

Still, the spiders shouldn't be much of a problem, for spiders generally can't cope with cold too well, but mad scientist Professor Marks (David Milbern) has doped them up so much, they don't even care about the weather anymore. Since the soldiers stationed to protect the spiders aren't very good at their job (and, you know, not actually stationed where the spiders were but a twenty minutes drive away), it falls on not mad scientist Dr. Sommers (Vanessa Williams), skiing instructor, ex-marine and nearly Olympic ski talent Dash Dashiell (Patrick Muldoon), and ski resort owner Frank Stone (Stephen J. Cannell) to heroically fight off the ice spider menace. Unfortunately, our ski resort is the only place in the USA where no firearms at all can be found, so our heroes will need all their creativity and natural talents (skiing, pulling levers, running) to survive.

There's an old saying among my people that states "everything is better with ice and snow", and Tibor Takács' Ice Spiders clearly displays the truth of it, for the ice-bound nature of our SyFy menace of the week does provide ample opportunity for things like spider shenanigans on a ski lift (pro-tip: don't jump down) and a climactic race between our heroic ski instructor and three skittering, jumping, and tittering CGI spiders. Truly, it is a thing only possible in the Great White of Utah.

All of this is - obviously - supremely silly business, exactly the sort of thing that could descend into the deepest chasm of camp, but through powers won in a long career of films made from the most dubious of scripts (or at least with the most dubious of stories), Takács manages to keep things funny-silly instead of "oh-look-how-ironic-and-subversive-I-am-because-I'm-crap". It's mostly the director's judicious sense of pacing that makes the difference here, I think, as well as the ability to know when a silly joke works, and when making it would annoy.

The actors are no help at all: Muldoon, Williams, and Millbern are all kinds of dreadful and earnest, neither able to convey any believable human emotion, nor fit to deliver their lines; it says something rather rude about them that TV producer Cannell is the best actor in the film. But hey, it's not as if the rest of the cast weren't at least trying, and it just might be exactly the misguided earnestness of their performances which make our heroes somewhat endearing. It sure isn't the characterization. Truthfully, I don't really care (much) about the quality of the acting in a SyFy creature feature as long as I get to regularly see giant spiders munch on people.

This, Ice Spiders provides in spades, and tops it off with letting the munching happen in ice and snow, therefore earning itself my seal of approval.

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