Camel Spiders (2011)

Here at 31 Flavors of Terror, I make every effort to select only movies that have at least some chance of exceeding expectations. Not every movie can be Halloween or The Cabin in the Woods. But many low-budget, unheralded films have unexpected value. I don’t give you movies I know will be terrible. Except sometimes I do.

Once a year I like to pick something awful and make fun of it. Two years ago I did Sharktopus and it was MIGHTY. Last year it was this big budget train wreck. For 2012 I went back for another made-for-TV monster movie: Camel Spiders.

Lest we think I’m picking on Syfy, I’d like to point out that my resason for choosing this one is the title. I just love when a movie is written title first, and when the title came straight from a recent headline (or in this case, viral email), even better. Camel spiders are a real thing. They’re not actually spiders, but they’re from the same family or genus or zip code or something. They have only six legs, but they have four massive leg-shaped appendages that wiggle around like antennas (BLECH) plus a set of jaws that look like fuzzy bolt cutters. They’re really big and really fast, but big like six inches not big like the size of a pizza box. Still, fucking insane and ripe for B-movie treatment.

My army recruiter did not mention this.

My question is, where is the terror babies movie? Remember those headlines? “Whup, better close up them thar borders. Don’t want them Alllll Qaeders gettin’ in and dropping little Osamas outta their jihadist cooters!” Horrifying as that sounds, can we not go one step further? What if the terrorists are secretly bio-engineering adorable little babies with the ability to fire machine guns and set off tiny car bombs? I’m seeing a whole Child’s Play meets Baby Geniuses thing here. FRAN. CHISE.

They must have washed your uniform with the dark laundry. Get yourself a new one after you ride back to base on that cartoon chopper.

The story: We start in Afghanistan, where a bunch of soldiers in mismatched uniforms are engaged in a firefight with some very Caucasian-looking hostiles, all of whom carry the same Vietnam era M-16s as the Americans, which, okay, sure. Three minutes in, we get a full-on money shot of the dreaded CG camel spiders, who apparently hate terrorists (or find them delicious). One of the spiders hops into the mouth of a dead American and Arachnaphobias his way back to the States. The trip takes all of ten seconds, has no segue, and ends in a section of Arizona that looks EXACTLY like Afghanistan. A car crash breaks open the casket, somehow releasing not just a lone two-inch bug, but dozens of Frisbee-sized critters. Shit just got real, Arizona. Your delicious iced teas won’t save you now.

My favorite is the guy shooting straight up. Nice socks.

Biggest letdown: Okay, yes, I’m being a bit of a bully picking on this brainless piece of shit movie and others like it. The production companies Syfy hires for its original features work with budgets of less than two million dollars. (Sometimes much less – IMDB estimates the budget for Camel Spiders at $500,000. Zoinks.) They crank out finished products in about a year, which is pretty fast considering 30-second commercials take up to four months. On that budget and schedule, it’s a wonder you can make out any trace of a story at all.

These movies are built to siphon ad revenue from lackluster Saturday night programming,which typically has the smallest viewing audiences of the week anyway. They’re the kinds of movies you watch when you’re sick of your DVD collection and you’ve emptied your DVR. Or maybe you just ate too much for dinner and you need something to look at while you drink yourself into a coma. As a business product, these movies do their jobs flawlessly: they make back their investment several times over. The letdown is that Camel Spiders, despite being patently ridiculous, has no sense of humor whatsoever. I had a damn near impossible time coming up with a quote that sounded funny, and that never happens. It’s like the writers were consciously trying to avoid ridicule and HOW DARE THEY?

If this growth rate keeps up, by the end of the movie they’ll be attacking the moon.

PS – Since I know everyone at Syfy reads this prestigious WordPress blog of mine and prints out copies to share with loved ones, here’s a piece of advice: turn your Saturday originals into a series. Call it Syfy Presents. Hire a couple of fat, unshaven hosts to do a cooking lesson, or better still teach the audience how to build things that relate to the movies: flamethrowers, zombie traps, whatever. And give them permission to laugh at the movies for heaven’s sake. It’s okay. The audience already knows.

Why you should watch: Camel Spiders is boring and dumb and not much fun. The two male leads aren’t bad though. They’re played by Brian Krause (holy crap the kid from Sleepwalkers is OLD) and C. Thomas Howell, who almost never takes off his aviator shades, presumably to hide what I hope are very, very bloodshot eyes. Remember when C was an up and coming quasi Brat Packer? He was in The Outsiders (Good!), Soul Man (Bad.), The Hitcher (Okay.), and Red Dawn (RAARRRR DIE YOU COMMIE BASTARDS!) before he dropped off the map. My favorite movie of his is Side Out. The best part was the tagline, which I still remember twenty years later: “If you see only one volleyball movie this summer, see…Side Out!” Finally, no need to be jealous of the families with enough money to see all the volleyball movies.

Yep, that look pretty much covers it.

All kidding aside, there is one nice thing about this movie that deserves recognition. When our scrappy group of survivors holes up at the nearby gypsum plant (what?), they break off into smaller groups for a few heart-to-hearts, some of which are – fuck me – a little touching. The tender moments aren’t in any way subtle, but they represent investments that movies like this don’t often make. Chief among them is a soon-to-be divorced couple and their young daughter. The payoff comes when the father has to go help the other menfolk fight off the onslaught of incoming arachnids. His little girl protests but he says, quite beautifully, “It’s gonna be fine sweetie. This is what daddies do.”

Did not know BDUs came in a low-cut cami.

Memorable Moment: Not really that many hilariously bad moments. Mostly just moments where you shrug your shoulders and shake your head, as if you were staring at a pile of cold french fries you don’t want but will eat anyway. If any moment stood out as nearly transcendent it would have to be when one member a of group of spider-bait teens (all of whom look to be in their 30s) drives off in a huff because her boyfriend was mean to her. Little does she know, a spider hitched a ride in her car!

Now, in a movie, this setup yields one of only two possible outcomes: (A) the spider kills her in the car, causing mayhem on the highway that snarls traffic and prevents escape for other characters or (B) the long car ride allows the spider to lay eggs and thereby infest an unsuspecting city center that would have otherwise been outside its normal breeding range. Do either one of thes things happen? No they fucking well do not. We never see that particular spider again. Instead, the 35-year-old school girl arrives safely at a diner, only to find it deserted. Like any reasonable customer, this prompts her to immediately force her way into the kitchen. And what does she discover? This:

That’s right, the fucking spiders BEAT THE CAR to the diner. And why do they cocoon the restaurateurs when they just rip everyone else apart? And why do these victims have zombie eyes? Before we can even ask these questions, the world’s only high schooler on Medicare opens the freezer door and a bunch of spiders fly out and kill her. Because of course there are spiders in the freezer.

Choice quote: “Looks like the little devils are tryin’ some sorta pincer move!” (Sorry, I’ll do better next time.)

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4 Responses to “Camel Spiders (2011)”

  1. […] Camel Spiders – They bite. […]

  2. […] out of Spiders On Drugs Experiment Spiders …, THE ANALOG ALMANAC: Spider Webs on Drugs, …, Spiders On Drugs? […]

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