Saturday, March 15, 2014


KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977) (PG) Dir. John "Bud" Cardos
97 mins.

I remember being royally freaked out when I caught Kingdom of the Spiders on cable in the late 80's. Now, many years later, I find it a charming addition to the killer wildlife subgenre of horror. No doubt riding the coattails of movies like Frogs, Jaws, band Grizzly, this oft-forgotten film has its own furry little charm and is quite possibly the main inspiration for 1990's Arachnophobia.

This time Shatner is playing Rack Hansen, a veterinarian in a small Arizonian town. When local farmer Colby calls him concerning a sick cow, Rack is baffled by its condition. The cow dies, and Rack sends blood samples to a university for a more thorough analysis.
The university dispatches a young specialist named Diane, who informs Rack that the cow died from a spider venom that is five times its normal potency. They soon discover that the normally cannibalistic spiders are organizing into colonies like ants or bees, and that farmer Colby has an assload of these spider hives in his fields. Diane suggests that the spiders migrated to this town in search of a food source, their usual menu having been depleted because of DDT testing.

A few deaths later and the mayor, trying to save face in light of an upcoming county fair, attempts to solve the problem by sending local pilot, Baron, up with enough insecticide to blanket the areas surrounding the town. Unfortunately for Baron, he isn't flying alone.

After failing to air raid the infestation, the spiders take the offensive and completely invade the town. This is where the movie really shines. Panic ensues; the residents are all rioting, cocooned bodies lay in the street, the police are helpless, and outside reinforcements do not appear to be coming. During the climax, Rack and Diane hold up in an inn with the owner and an out-of-town couple. In scenes reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead, they make numerous attempts to fortify the building; plugging entry ways, boarding up windows and gathering supplies. The spider attacks seem to be tapering off... The ending is grim and apocalyptic, and it practically begs for a sequel.
Shatner tried to make that happen for thirteen years, but the possibility collapsed along with its production company Cannon Films in 1990. RIP KOTS II.

It has cheesy establishing dialogue, slow pacing and some cheap effects (take a drink every time you notice a fake tarantula), but it also has that aforementioned charm, the unquestionable charisma of the Shatness, a few memorable scares, and an exciting, wholly satisfying climax and ending. A warning to the squeamish though: this film was made before there were strict animal rights codes in cinema and there are quite a few squishings on-screen. The filmmakers claim to have taken every precaution to avoid tarantula deaths, but if you look for them, they are there. When it comes to cruelty towards animals, Cannibal Holocaust ain't got nothing on this. 6/10


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