Director Scott Ziehl’s “Earth vs. The Spider” is an often overlooked and extremely obscure film, and for good reason. It’s a relative rip-off of David Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” and let’s face it: There’s no reason to call this movie “Earth vs. The Spider” at all. I fondly remember this being featured on Cinemax here in America in a Stan Winston horror movie showcase. His company rehashed American International Pictures films, but in name only. As is the case with “Earth vs. The Spider,” which isn’t a masterpiece, but isn’t bad for a hokey shamelessly derivative monster movie.
This 2001 retread isn’t about a scientist, but instead focuses on a low level lab guard named Quentin who is obsessed with comic books and superheroes. He’s a fairly forgettable young man who lives in an apartment complex, and has eyes for his lovely neighbor. He’s obsessed with comics and superheroes, and is even a security guard for the sake of being identified as such. Quentin happens to work in a top secret lab that’s performing genetic experiments. When it’s broken in to by terrorists, Quentin takes the opportunity to view the crime as a serendipitous moment.
He injects himself with a mysterious serum that is being used to figure out how to imbue humans with spider abilities. Quentin’s dream has come true when he begins experiencing transformations that seem like he’s becoming a friendly neighborhood web slinger of sorts. But things go awry when Quentin begins to adopt the more vicious and predatory habits of the spider, which includes hunting smaller animals and weaker prey, and garnering an unquenchable hunger for meat. Before long he takes on the hideous physical attributes of a man spider hybrid that are less than appealing and he begins murdering innocent victims. He soon finds himself in a battle between his baser urges, and his humanity that unfolds much in the vein of “The Fly.”
Again, I won’t call this a masterpiece, and it doesn’t even try to be original, but it’s a fun guilty pleasure with neat direction from Scott Ziehl, and some very nifty special effects and make up. For the most part, Devin Gummersall’s performance is solid, and considering what little screen time he has, John Cho chews every scene he’s in, and plays a significant role in character Quentin’s lingering sanity. The said, Dan Akroyd seems to be thrown in to the movie for name recognition only, playing a private eye who takes an interest in Quentin’s crime spree. He feels oddly tacked on to the story, and contributes nothing but a misplaced noir aesthetic that really is ill fitted for what amounts to a gross out horror film. If you can forgive it for cribbing from Cronenberg’s masterpiece, “Earth vs. The Spider” is a worthwhile genre entry that’s less about science playing God and more about the dangers of losing the ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy.